#AngloswithAcadians

I posted a rant on Facebook on August 15th, la Fête Nationale Acadienne,  It got a lot of attention–currently, it’s sitting at almost 2,000 shares and nearly 3,000 likes.

On the evening of August 14th, I saw a post by Beth Lyons.

bethlyonshashtag

Click to view the full screenshot of Beth’s post.

I’d been thinking about this issue for a long time. Growing up in Albert County, I saw one side of the argument: the majority’s side. Lately, after seeing vocal “anglophone rights” and “anti-bilingualism” groups, my urge to say something grew. Seeing Beth’s post on the 14th sparked something in me. I woke up on the 15th and said “today’s the day”. My rant followed.

I’ve long been interested in New Brunswick’s bilingual population. When I was approaching middle school, I was given the opportunity to take immersion classes in Hillsborough. Being from a small community, the idea of going to a school an hour away was a little daunting, but I really wanted to improve my meagre French skills. This was important to both me and my parents, considering neither of them spoke French and they felt that I should be connected culturally to both official languages. I stuck it through and graduated high school as Intermediate in French, which was enough to gain me acceptance to Université de Moncton’s groupe pont (bridge group)—a program for anglophones. I took a 5-year break in between to practice my French in a practical setting: working retail in Champlain Place. I couldn’t tell you what level my French is at now, but I worked very hard to get there. I went through years of anxiety, and it was anything but easy. This doesn’t really matter, but I think it’s relevant to illustrate my background as an anglophone.

My quinze août rant was intended to be a public statement of recognition, from an anglophone to the francophone community, that some of the silent majority recognizes that the minority is suffering. By making this statement, I’m not ignoring the fact that unilingual anglophones might have a hard time finding a job in New Brunswick. The problem is that anglophones are in the majority in our province, and these growing anglo rights groups are speaking over francophones who are have had similar experiences for a long time. The focus shift to anglophone rights must be discouraging for francophones. I know that both sides of the language debate–how is there still a language debate?!–have problems. However, as an anglophone, I am allied, by default, to anglophones, and this is why I wrote my rant. When the majority is loud in favour of the majority, the minority is silenced. This is what I fear. Many francophones tend to hear negativity from the anglophone side, and I felt it was important to let francophones know that some of us are willing to speak up.

I’m a little disappointed that, despite francophones speaking out about these issues for years, these issues are only being addressed now that an anglophone is publicly decrying them. I’m very glad that the message I wrote has resonated with so many people, but I do hope that others decide to listen to francophone voices and stand up for their right to speak and work in their language. I also find it interesting that I was interviewed by four French media outlets, and only one English one.

The fact that CTV published a poll asking whether bilingualism is outdated or not on their website is proof that we have a serious problem in our province. The results heavily favoured doing away with bilingualism–this coming notably from primarily English-speaking viewers. I’m not saying our province isn’t broken. We have low literacy rates. Our unemployment rate is high. We have a failing economy. We have a slew of problems, but we’re constantly putting the blame on bilingualism and duality. This is not a black and white issue. Getting rid of bilingualism will not fix these problems.

Language is a skill like any other, and it is a marketable skill. Certainly, some anglophones have unfairly lost their jobs–I am speaking of specific examples, not every occurrence thereof. While I agree that all jobs shouldn’t necessarily be bilingual by default, bilingualism as an ideal is not to blame. The problem is that calling for jobs that don’t require bilingual workers puts the unilingual francophone population in a difficult conundrum. If unilingual anglophones can find a job in a place that isn’t required to deal with the public, why can’t unilingual francophones? Why are they forced to assimilate to us when we are in a bilingual province? How is that just?

bethlyonstweets

 

At the end of the day, I posted a rant on Facebook that got some attention. This issue, however, is a lot bigger than an 800-word social media post. If we don’t stop diverting the blame to bilingualism and addressing the heart of our problems, then I fear our province will continue to be driven to the ground. We can work together for an equal, bilingual New Brunswick that we can be proud of.

When I shared my rant, a part of me wanted to start a conversation. I didn’t think it would start such a big conversation, but I’m glad it did, and I hope we can all keep talking directly. My message was simple: the groups denouncing bilingualism and hoping to end it do not speak for me, and I am standing alongside the minority. Based on the reception of that message by the francophone community, it needed to be heard.

Since I made my post on Saturday, I’ve had two people–one anglophone, one francophone–say to me “I speak one language, another person speaks another, but we understand each other just fine. To me, that’s bilingualism”. I’m not saying bilingualism is perfectly executed in our province. It needs work. But that’s something we can approach together.

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7 Comments

  1. Il faut une perspective plus historique, moins personnelle, plus respectueuse de tout ce qui s’est fait depuis, disons, 100 ans.
    Je ne sais pas quoi faire de cet énoncé, “anglophones have unfairly lost their jobs” si vous preniez pour important le droit d’un-e citoyen-ne au service dans sa langue.

    • Bonjour Rosella–je m’excuse pour cette. Il était un exemple spécifique que j’ai essayé de chercher. C’était un homme qui était proche de son retraite. Un homme francophone a prendre la parole contre ça. Je m’excuse si ça n’est pas claire, et je vais donner une petite révision. Merci de m’avoir averti.

      J’ai essayé de chercher cette vidéo–c’est sur Youtube quelque part–mais je ne peut plus le trouver!

      Je suis absolument en accord avec tous que vous disez. Mon poste d’aujourd’hui c’est juste un petit suite. Je veut qu’on continue la parole, absolument. Il y a encore trop à dire.

  2. Il y a des anglos et des francos qui diront plein de choses.
    Si on est pour avoir une discussion utile, qui avance les choses, il faut s’éloigner des anecdotes et s’en tenir aux droits.

    • Oui, certainement! Ce suite n’est pas nécessairement plus qu’une clarification–un autre côté de la même discussion. C’est ça pourquoi c’est sur mon blog personnel.

  3. I worked in the Champlain Mall and you do not have to speak french to work
    there.The person who wrote about how they were anglos supporting French is
    totally out of touch with reality.
    I grew up in Albert County and i must say there is as much frustration in other parts of NB as there is in Albert County.
    I worked in in retail for 25 years plus in Moncton and it more than daunting to be unemployed because you cannot speak French.This is what it is about the unfairness to the majority of the population.I attended school in Hillsborough and at the time the French teacher was not trained
    to teach French.

    • Hello Jerry,

      You don’t have to speak French to work in Champlain Mall, this is true. However, I did speak French there, every day. I worked in two different places in the mall and I spoke more French working there than anywhere else. My experience was different from yours; there’s nothing wrong with that.

  4. I am going to speak up and say I am not pro Anglo or pro Franco, I am pro Canadian! I empathize with the minority Acadian community over assimilation fears, but that in itself is not justification for subverting English/Canadian culture. Not every French speaker is an Acadian descendant as well as not every Acadian descendant is a french speaker. While it is nice for all of us to reconnect with our past and identify with our descendants, we all live together now in ONE country as ONE people and there is no reason not to respect each other as fellow Canadians and leave the language to individual choice…..our passports are all stamped “Canadian”, those aspiring to someday be something else are in identity denial!

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