Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act. This act, which lead to the recognition of New Brunswick as the only bilingual province in Canada, has undeniably shaped our province in ways too numerous to count.
This occasion offers us a rare opportunity not only to reflect on the last 50 years, but also to consider what could be accomplished in the 50 years to come. On this note, the SANB believes that the time has come to propose bold initiatives aimed at promoting both official languages within our province; initiatives that respect not only the spirit of the Official Languages Act, but also the Act Recognizing the Equality of Both Official Language Communities in New Brunswick.
As it stands, only 17% of the New Brunswickers who have English as a first language have succeeded in becoming bilingual, whereas this statistic rises to 75% amongst Francophones. This is not because Francophones are innately better at acquiring a second language, but rather because successive governments have failed to make French immersion a true priority. Today, the government has the chance to fix this problem, for the benefit of all New Brunswickers.
Although much progress has been made, when we consider the statistics presented above, we can only conclude that we have failed in instituting the ideal of having a truly bilingual citizenship in our province. Let’s aim to change that. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, we ask that the government consider launching a series of bold initiatives aimed at creating a 100% bilingual citizenship by the 100th anniversary the of the Act.
“Some might scoff at the boldness of this idea,” says M. Robert Melanson, president of the SANB. “However, we fundamentally believe that promoting the acquisition of a second or even third language will only help our province on its journey towards greater prosperity. We also believe that official bilingualism is part of the social contract that has helped bring both linguistic communities towards a greater understanding and that it is our bilingualism that unites us as a province”.
“Over the last 50 years, our bilingualism has helped us distinguish ourselves not only within Canada, but also across the globe. Let’s renew this commitment to greater understanding between our official languages communities by daring to be bold and by aiming as high as we possibly can,” concludes M. Melanson.
For more information or to organise an interview:
Éric Dow, Director of communications
firstname.lastname@example.org — Cell: (506) 878-0948
Nathalie Blaquière, Director of the Bureau d’aide en français
email@example.com — Cell: (506) 337-5510