Nova Scotia

Kenney taking heat over Gaelic language comments

Federal minister Jason Kenney is taking heat from people in Cape Breton over his comments that federal funds should not preserve the Gaelic language.

Federal minister says federal money should not be used to help preserve Gaelic language

Gaelic speaking Nova Scotians are not happy with federal minister Jason Kenney.

Kenney has weighed in on the merits of the language and the government's role in preserving it. Kenney said federal government money should not be used to promote languages that are fighting for survival.

"I think we should focus on the common languages that unite us in our diversity, English and French," said Kenney. "I encourage communities to maintain their heritage languages, be they Gaelic or Punjabi or Mandarin, but that they do so with their own funds."

In the Cape Breton community of Mabou, those words are not going over well. In Mabou, you'll find street and road signs that show you the Gaelic language is alive and well.

Former Nova Scotia Premier and now CEO of the Gaelic College, Rodney MacDonald, said the Gaelic language is the cultural fabric of the Celtic community.

"I think the minister should apologize to the Gaelic community of Nova Scotia. He should apologize for the remarks. They were inappropriate. Like they say in politics, it's never too late to do the right thing."

Jason Kenney said federal funds should not be used to preserve the Gaelic language. (CBC)
In a report this week, Statistics Canada said only 1,645 people across Canada were raised speaking Gaelic. That's down 10 per cent from 2006.

For the last six years, the Nova Scotia government has had an Office of Gaelic Affairs. This year's budget is a little more than $500,000.

At the local grocery store in the heart of the community, people were saying the Gaelic language is important .

"It's a cultural thing and it's as important as Mi'kmaq and French is to the culture of the country," said Janice Langille. "It's all part and parcel of our heritage and should be preserved."

"Well there's a lot of things in French is that a waste of money," said Maureen Hart.

While Kenney says federal funds should not be used to help maintain the Gaelic language, another federal cabinet minister, Peter MacKay, will be in Cape Breton Saturday to announce funding for the Gaelic College.