Linguistic equality walk held in Moncton
A walk for linguistic equality in Moncton, N.B., on Saturday attracted about 300 people in support of New Brunswick bilingualism and about a dozen anti-bilingualism protesters.
Organizers hoped the Great Walk for Linguistic Equality would show people that anglophones and francophones prefer to live together as equal partners.
The walk began at 1 p.m. AT at Highfield Square in downtown Moncton, ending at Moncton City Hall where speeches highlighted what people see as the positive effects of bilingualism. New Brunswick is Canada's only officially bilingual province.
The event had a festive atmosphere, with stilt walkers, musicians and painted faces, as people gathered at Highfield Park.
Melanie Roy, who showed up with her five-month-old son Theo, said she wanted her son to grow up in a province where French and English people get along and are treated as equals.
Eilish Bulmer, who was on stilts, said she has some family members who speak French.
"I support the cause and I thought it would be fun to come and help support the people who are French in the community, although I'm not French," she said.
Bilingualism leads to 'never-ending' dispute: protester
Tim Williams with the Anglo Society of New Brunswick was part of the small group that protested the walk.
"I feel that unless forced bilingualism is exchanged [for] freedom of choice in language, that this is going to be a never-ending political dispute between English and French here in Moncton and in New Brunswick," he said.
One female protester yelled, "Quebec is taking over New Brunswick! Time to take New Brunswick back!"
Marcher Frank Roublin carried a sign that listed three anti-bilingualism protesters who had been posting frequently on the event's website and the message, "I love you."
"I decided to acknowledge the fact that we didn't share the same views by just saying, hey, you know, we might not agree on everything but I love you guys," Roublin said.
The walk comes in the wake of two language issues that gave rise to debate this summer.
In one, a number of New Brunswick communities refused requests to fly the flag of the Anglo Society.
The anglophone rights group had hoped its flag would be flown on Sept. 18, the date in 1759 that the English defeated the French in battle on the Plains of Abraham and took Quebec.
The other issue was bilingual signage.
Residents in Moncton and in neighbouring Dieppe have both debated whether to demand that new commercial signage be in both languages.
Dieppe decided it would enforce bilingual signage, while Moncton decided that promoting the benefits of bilingual signs was the better option.
Organizer Gabrielle Viger said that given the controversy, the marchers wanted to show the opinion of the majority of New Brunswickers, who recent polls show are strongly in favour of bilingualism.
A 2009 survey suggested about 82 per cent of the population of the province approves of official bilingualism.