Saturday, March 7, 2009


I've read somewhere that when you get older, you tend to reach out to family and places that you have distanced yourself from. The first time that I came across that idea I have to admit that I was quite cynical.. As a young man, I couldn't wait to leave Moncton . Toronto, even then (the early seventies) was the big city. It had theatre and skyscrapers (The TD Centre). Montreal, the usual target for people from Moncton was too alien for me. As an anglophone Acadian, I didn't feel welcome especially given the urber-heated cultural battles going on. The wounds of October, 1970 were still bleeding.

Moncton had its own language issues then as well. 1969 gave us the Université de Moncton demonstrations that rallied against the chauvinistic and very francophobe Mayor Leonard C. Jones and his refusal to recognize that francophones were a sizable segment of the population and deserved a voice - in their own language. By God, the city was home to the largest francophone University east of Quebec. For that he received that an infamous door prize: a pigs head delivered to his home.

The language struggles continue to peculate to the top of the news:

How bilingual is Moncton?

The president of the Société de l'Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick believes social progress in Moncton has been hindered this week by comments made by Councillor-at-Large Kathryn Barnes at a city council meeting Monday night.
Barnes spoke out against the idea of designating a new position for an assistant building inspector as bilingual when council was asked to vote on the issue this week.

The whole question of language rights (and wrongs) is one that has sapped so much energy from our country. The solution as I see it in my Trudeau-arian brain, is to give more than lip service to the notion that we are a bilingual country. Because, in reality, New Brunswick is the only "bilingual" province.

Quebec would sooner name an official holiday after Don Cherry than agree to offer adequate ESL education to its citizens. Parts of Ontario still only require the french be taught as an elective in its high schools, and as for the rest of the country, apart from isolated francophone areas in the Maritimes; the Prairies and the West, french is so far from the daily reality of most that even cereal boxes exhibiting "la langue de Molière" ceases to send people into singing choruses of The Maple Leaf Forever.

Like so many other issues surrounding civil and human rights, there is always a disconnect between what we would like to see and what it is that we do see. Giving voice to the fact that francophones will feel welcome from coast to coast is as easy as saying that child poverty will cease to exist by 2004.

It takes political will and visionary leadership to make things happen.

School boards across this country must incorporate secondary language training into the the basic curriculum. None of this one hour a week joke.

But that won't happen. Education is a provincial jurisdiction as is health care. That these two areas suffer the same monumental challenges is quite a coincidence, n'est-ce pas?

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