Skip to content

Outraged Acadian group urges leadership review of New Brunswick premier

FREDERICTON — The Acadian Society of New Brunswick is accusing Premier Blaine Higgs of abdicating his responsibilities toward official bilingualism.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs delivers the state of the province address in Fredericton on Thursday, March 31, 2022. The Acadian Society of New Brunswick released today a scathing open letter to Premier Blaine Higgs, accusing him of abdicating his responsibilities toward official bilingualism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Stephen MacGillivray

FREDERICTON — The Acadian Society of New Brunswick is accusing Premier Blaine Higgs of abdicating his responsibilities toward official bilingualism.

In a scathing open letter released Wednesday, the group called on New Brunswick's Progressive Conservative party to conduct a review of Higgs's leadership, suggesting the premier has become wildly unpopular in Canada's only officially bilingual province.

The letter is signed by more than 40 individuals, most of them representatives of francophone organizations, unions, municipalities and one First Nation.

"Premier Blaine Higgs's attempts to disengage himself from his responsibilities regarding matters of official bilingualism are of great concern to us," the letter said. "Simply put, this divisive strategy is unacceptable coming from the premier of our beautiful province."

The premier's office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Among other things, the society accused Higgs of sowing discord between linguistic and cultural communities, portraying himself as a victim of bilingualism and lacking respect for the province's Acadian and francophone communities, and its Mi'kmaq and Wolastoqey First Nations.

In particular, the letter criticized the premier's recent review of New Brunswick's Official Languages Act and his proposal to introduce a new French immersion program that cuts the time elementary school students spend learning in French. The premier's actions have led to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead the province, the Acadian group said.

The letter also contained a long list of complaints about several other issues, including changes to the province's two health authorities, one of which oversees the francophone network. 

"In these difficult times, it is essential to have a unifying premier who truly understands the needs of all New Brunswickers," the letter said. "More than ever, we need a premier who can give hope to all New Brunswickers, regardless of their linguistic community or origins."

Last month, the perennial language debate in New Brunswick took on new urgency when Higgs said the province's French immersion program had failed. 

During a recent news conference, he said that over the past 50 years, 72 per cent of anglophone students had failed to become bilingual by graduation. And a 2021 review of the Official Languages Act showed that more than 60 per cent of students in the anglophone school system were not enrolled in the program, resulting in their French-language competencies being "extremely" low. 

At the time, the president of the Acadian Society, Alexandre Cédric Doucet, responded by suggesting the immersion program is a Canadian success story that Higgs "wants to cut down."

"I think that an attack to the French immersion program is an attack against official languages," Doucet said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2022.

The Canadian Press

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks