Saint John man starts anti-bilingualism Facebook page
Moncton law professor Michel Doucet says concerns about bilingualism heat up when economy cools down
A Saint John man has created a Facebook site for people to share their thoughts on official bilingualism and how it affects their lives.
Jason McBride said he decided to start the site after being turned down for a job he once held at the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick.
McBride worked for the association as its training co-ordinator and says he has all the training certifications the job needs. When he left the position, he says he was given glowing recommendations.
But when he reapplied for the job recently after an absence, he was told it now requires a person who can converse easily in French as well as English.
McBride said he asked if there were any training programs he could take that would prepare him for the job but he "kind of got brushed off a bit."
He said he went to Skills and Development in Saint John and asked them for help with French-language training.
It's part of the qualifications and I don't really believe people are being run out of New Brunswick because of bilingualism.- Michel Doucet, law professor
"And I was told, ‘Well we don't actually have anything like that,’ and I said, ‘OK, what do you recommend? (And they said) ‘Well, what you could do is go to the local library and sign out the Rosetta program.’”
McBride says he didn't expect that kind of reaction and he wondered how many others were having similar hardships. It turns out he has tapped into a nerve.
McBride says the experiences of people that are shared on his site paint a very dismal picture of the success of official bilingualism.
He says it's clear the program has been a waste of money and he would like to see a movement started to have the section recognizing New Brunswick as officially bilingual removed from the Constitution.
"I think there's a disconnect," said McBride.
"I think that right now we're seeing a lot of talk about bilingualism and a lot of people not getting an opportunity because they don't speak two languages at a level that is being requested by government testers."
'It's a dead end'
But Michel Doucet, a University of Moncton law professor, said he doubts McBride's Facebook campaign will have much success in the end.
"They can have a petition or get as many signatures as they want, there won't be any changes in New Brunswick with the Official Languages Act or to the Constitutional protection that are in the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] right now.
“So I don't believe that anything would change at this point of time, so I can't see the purpose of having a petition like this one on paper."
As for the argument that the language rights given to francophones are taking jobs away anglophones, Doucet said he isn't buying that either.
"We've been hearing that for the last 30 or 40 years and I don't really believe that in New Brunswick a unilingual anglophone cannot get a position," he said.
The law professor said some government jobs require bilingual employees so they can offer services to people in either official language.
“I probably would like to fly a plane but I don't have the qualifications to do it, so I just can't say because they're not allowing me to fly a plane that I'm qualified to do it,” he said.
“It's part of the qualifications and I don't really believe people are being run out of New Brunswick because of bilingualism."
Doucet said he believes the discontent over bilingualism is more of symptom of the province's poor economy. When people can't find jobs, he says, they look for somewhere to put the blame.
Facebook page generates stories
Since creating his Facebook page: "New Brunswick Referendum on Official Bilingualism 2014," he's heard from more than 4,700 people around the province. And each has a story to tell.
Angela Vincent of Moncton is one of the people who joined the online group.
Until her recent problems, she's someone who might be considered the model New Brunswicker.
"I took French immersion from Grade 1 to Grade 12. When I graduated I took the provincial exam and I met the requirements at that time, " Vincent said.
So I wasn't given the job based on French even though I would never have had to use it.- Angela Vincent
Vincent said she never ran into problems with her language skills until she started applying for government jobs in the last 18 months.
"I've taken a test with them and I've been told on several occasions that I don't meet the requirements for bilingualism today," she said.
She said one job would have required her to work in the predominantly anglophone communities of Hillsborough, Riverside-Albert and Sussex.
"I even asked would there be a chance that I would have to be somewhere and speak French and the person said, 'No, but everyone that's hired has to meet these standards,'" she said.
"So I wasn't given the job based on French even though I would never have had to use it. So that's kind of what I've been running into. It's frustrating."
Vincent said having her name on McBride's Facebook site has already opened her up to accusations people who don't understand her frustrations.
"I've gotten a lot of in box messages calling me racist, which I think is funny because it's not a racial issue at all. Or just basically that I'm anti-French or that I'm hateful or whatever,” she said,
“I've been very adamant from the beginning that I don't have an issue with bilingualism and I don't have an issue with French.”