Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former N.B. Premier Writes Report on Challenges, Opportunities for Bilingualism

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former N.B. Premier Writes Report on Challenges, Opportunities for Bilingualism

Article excerpt

Gallant presents report on bilingualism

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Brian Gallant admits he "should have spoken more about bilingualism" during his time as the premier of New Brunswick in a new report he wrote on language tensions in the province.

In the report, released Sunday, Gallant said he hoped to create "open, transparent, and respectful dialogue" about bilingualism in the province -- something he lamented he had not done enough in the past four years.

"I should have talked more about its benefits to our economy and to our social fabric," he wrote.

"I also should have more frequently acknowledged the concerns of some with regards to how they felt bilingualism was impacting their lives in a negative way -- while also publicly busting some of the myths surrounding bilingualism."

Gallant, the soon-to-be former leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Association, said he spoke with 100 community leaders as he spent the last few months touring the province in a bid to repair its linguistic divide.

The report outlines what the confidential participants viewed as challenges and opportunities when it came to being Canada's sole bilingual province.

"The hope is that this exercise can help in some small way to unite our province through the realization that there is far more that unites us than divides us," Gallant said.

Gallant will officially step down as Liberal leader later this month, almost five months after he was ousted as premier by Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs in last fall's election. The Liberal caucus will elect an interim leader on Feb. 13 to serve until the party holds its leadership convention in June.

Bilingualism simmered as a contentious issue ahead of the election. While neither party was initially eager to discuss the issue, Higgs and Gallant clashed during a televised debate less than 10 days before election day.

At the time, Gallant stressed that it's important for the premier and cabinet ministers to demonstrate to both the francophone and anglophone communities that they take their language seriously.

Higgs, who isn't fluent in French, argued that bilingualism isn't "the only skill you need to bring to the premier's office," although he added that it is an asset, and he is working to learn French. …

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