New Brunswick

Kent County family says bilingual school buses make sense

Anglophone and francophone students in Kent County have been sharing school buses for more than a decade, and some parents say it's never been a problem.

Jason Lawson's daughter and niece take the anglophone school bus to their francophone school

Anglophone and francophone students in Kent County have been sharing school buses for more than a decade, and some parents say it's never been a problem.
Jason Lawson's daughter Alisha has always taken an anglophone school bus to her francophone school in Kent County and he says it has allowed her to make new friends. (submitted)

Jason Lawson's youngest daughter attends Grade 12 at École Mgr-Marcel-François-Richard in Saint-Louis de Kent.

Lawson is a bilingual anglophone, his wife speaks French and their daughter Alisha, takes an English bus to her French school because there aren't any francophone buses that pass through their community.

"She's been doing that for 12 plus years," said Lawson. "She's made friends on the bus. The kids all get along. It's never been an issue — nothing that we even thought about."

When asked if he'd ever felt like his family's rights were violated, Lawson said, "Of course not. I mean, we're just glad the kids have a ride to school."

Last week, Education Minister Serge Rousselle said he's asked department officials to put an end to shared school buses.

Keeping them separate, to me, that's segregation.- Jason Lawson

Provincial policy requires separate school buses for students in the English and French school systems and Rousselle says the separate bus systems are required under the constitutional provisions for duality in education. 

Grade 12 francophone student Sophie Vautour is Lawson's niece and rides the same anglophone bus as his daughter.

She says the bus ride takes about 10 minutes and says English is the language spoken most often.

"But I do have other friends that go to francophone school that take the bus with me so a little bit of both. I guess it's really a choice that I make while I'm on the bus," Vautour said.

Bilingual bus system has benefits

Lawson says when he reads about shortfalls in the education department budget, he doesn't understand why they'd be sending out extra buses.

He calls the situation "insane" and says the province should leave the current shared system in Kent County alone. 

"And as a matter of fact, maybe they should take a look at the whole system in general and figure out ways to keep the buses full, regardless of (whether) the kids are English or French; that shouldn't be an issue," said Lawson. 

Lawson wants the department to focus on getting children to school safely, and believes there are benefits to allowing anglophone and francophone students to mingle.   

"In this household and this neighbourhood, I hope, we promote a feeling that both sides are equal and you can gain from talking and learning something from the other side," said Lawson. 

"Keeping them separate, to me, that's segregation."

Vautour says taking the bus with her fellow francophone and anglophone students has been a good experience and she sees no reason for it to change.

"I find we get to talk to each other and probably understand each other and since we don't go to school with each other every day it gives us a chance to know other kids from our community."

New Democratic Party Leader Dominic Cardy raised the issue of bilingual buses earlier this month, he now says he will seek a judicial review of the policy that requires separate buses.

Lawson says the children in his family have all bee brought up to respect all cultures in New Brunswick.

"They have both English and French friends and I thought that's what being in a bilingual province was about, you know respecting each other."

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