Quebec anglophones have banded together with francophones in New Brunswick and Ontario and signed a memorandum of understanding to work together more closely despite the language divide. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Anglos, francophones join forces on minority language rights after ‘a bad year’

MONTREAL — Quebec anglophones have banded together with francophones in New Brunswick and Ontario to protect and promote the rights of official minority language communities that they say are suddenly at risk.

The Societe de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick, the Quebec Community Groups Network and the Assemblee de la francophonie de l’Ontario called the partnership, announced Tuesday, the first of its kind in Canada.

At a news conference in Ottawa, the three groups said they have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together more closely despite the language divide.

“It’s been a bad year — it has been a bad year in Ontario, a bad year in New Brunswick and very worrying in Quebec — on subjects related to rights in all three cases,” Geoffrey Chambers of the Quebec network said in a phone interview.

“The principles expressed in the Constitution, expressed in Official Languages Act and in legislation in all three provinces aren’t really being honoured by the governments and it’s important for the communities to stand up and support each other and insist those rights be delivered.”

Chambers said the organizations have previously expressed support for one another on a number of issues, and the deal formalizes that support, agreeing to work together on policy proposals and a collective response to threats to institutions in any of the provinces.

In Quebec, the English community is concerned about the Coalition Avenir Quebec government’s intention to do away with school boards and schools being transferred out of the English school system faced with declining enrolment to an overtaxed French board.

In Ontario, often viewed as a model for other minority linguistic groups, the Conservative government announced it was scrapping the office of the French language services commissioner and has said it won’t fund a French-language university.

The moves caught the Franco-Ontarian community by surprise, said AFO president Carol Jolin. But it quickly recovered and began a movement dubbed La Resistance to fight the cuts.

Jolin said during that time, it became clear there was common ground between the groups.

“For minority communities, the institutions are extremely important and the message we’ve had for governments is don’t touch our institutions,” Jolin said.

“Our institutions are the basis of our community, around which the entire community organizes.”

Chambers said with a federal election coming, it’s important to have the federal parties make their positions clear on the Official Languages Act, which turns 50 later this year and is due for a renewal or an update.

Robert Melanson of the New Brunswick Acadian society said there has long been tension between the French and English communities in the country’s only officially bilingual province.

Those language tensions have only been fuelled further by the rise of the People’s Alliance party, which holds the balance of power in the legislature.

Melanson said the new pact could help build bridges in his province, where a Quebec anglo voice might resonate with the English population.

“Who better than an anglophone from Quebec to explain to an anglophone from New Brunswick the importance of an official languages law?” Melanson said.

Chambers agrees they could be the voice of an English-speaking community in Canada that is very sympathetic to the idea of good French services.

“English-speaking Quebecers are Canada’s most dedicated francophilles,” Chambers said, noting Quebec anglophones are committed to getting their kids into immersion and learning French skills so they can thrive in the province.

“We are the population in all of English Canada that understands the situation of francophone minorities, the value of French.”

The three organizations said they represent some 2.4 million people between them — about 90 per cent of those living in official minority language communities.

Just Posted

Maskwacis RCMP arrest, charge wanted man

A Maskwacis man is facing weapons-related charges after allegedly resisting arrest. Two… Continue reading

The shelter is full: Many abused women and children in central Alberta will face a tough holiday

Alberta has one of highest domestic violence rates in the country, says a report

‘Heart of darkness:’ Closing arguments in Calgary quadruple killing trial

CALGARY — Lawyers for a pair accused in a quadruple killing say… Continue reading

Chinese ambassador warns Canada against adopting motion calling for sanctions

MONTREAL — China’s new ambassador to Canada is threatening “very firm countermeasures”… Continue reading

Liberal MP Anthony Rota upsets Regan to become Speaker in minority Parliament

OTTAWA — Liberal MP Anthony Rota has been elected Speaker of the… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Tuesday The Central Alberta Council on Aging will hold its Christmas General… Continue reading

‘Heart of darkness:’ Closing arguments in Calgary quadruple killing trial

CALGARY — Lawyers for a pair accused in a quadruple killing say… Continue reading

Milan Lucic scores first as a Flame, Calgary beats Buffalo

Flames 5 Sabres 3 CALGARY — Milan Lucic scored his first goal… Continue reading

Chinese ambassador warns Canada against adopting motion calling for sanctions

MONTREAL — China’s new ambassador to Canada is threatening “very firm countermeasures”… Continue reading

Liberal MP Anthony Rota upsets Regan to become Speaker in minority Parliament

OTTAWA — Liberal MP Anthony Rota has been elected Speaker of the… Continue reading

Supreme Court won’t hear appeal from former Nazi death squad member

Jewish groups across the country hailed the Supreme Court’s decision not to… Continue reading

Consensus comes 30 years later that Montreal massacre was an anti-feminist act

MONTREAL — Thirty years after the worst mass shooting in Canadian history,… Continue reading

Angry Alberta legislature sitting ends with cross-party fight over room booking

EDMONTON — The fall sitting of the Alberta legislature has wrapped up,… Continue reading

Most Read