Monday, March 31, 2008

'We want to be bilingual!' 'We love French!'

As New Brunswick's Liberal government abolishes early immersion, English parents are taking to the streets to loudly oppose the move

INGRID PERITZ , From Monday's Globe and Mail, March 31, 2008 at 4:44 AM EDT

FREDERICTON — Not so many years ago, when English parents in New Brunswick held rallies to protest about French, it was to complain there was too much of it.

But across the province this month, from Saint John to Moncton to the capital of Fredericton, hundreds of anglophones have massed together with a passionate rallying cry: We want more French, not less.

They wave placards proclaiming: "We want to be bilingual!" and "We love French!" They stand on the steps of the New Brunswick Legislature giving anti-government speeches in both official languages.

These New Brunswickers are the children of Pierre Trudeau's vision of a bilingual and bicultural Canada. And the focus of their protest is the ticket they think gets them there: early French immersion.

The Liberal government of New Brunswick has decided to abolish early immersion, and will begin phasing it out this fall. The move has triggered an unexpectedly fierce backlash in Canada's only officially bilingual province.

"Canada looks to New Brunswick for its language integration. We need to integrate the two languages, not separate them," said Gail Arseneau, a Fredericton nurse who has two children in immersion but whose kindergarten-age son won't have access to the program come fall. ...

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