Fredericton, March 12, 2009 – This year marks the 20th edition of Provincial French Pride Week. For two decades now, this colourful event has enabled New Brunswick francophones and francophiles to celebrate the French language and their membership in the extended family of the Francophonie, which takes in 200 million persons in 33 countries.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the adoption of New Brunswick’s first Official Languages Act. Back in April 1969, the Legislative Assembly passed legislation for the first time which provides that English and French are the province’s official languages and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges. With that historic gesture, New Brunswick acquired the status of Canada’s only officially bilingual province.

The Official Languages Act of 1969 marked the beginning of a slow but real progression toward equality of our two languages. Over those four decades, much has been accomplished. Access to government services in both official languages has improved significantly. English and French have become the official languages of the courts. Each linguistic community now has its own public school system. Attitudes toward official languages have progressed as well, as shown by the interest for the French immersion program. Certainly, there is still a long way to go before we achieve real equality between our two languages. In that respect, our attitudes and behaviours play a determining role.

Availing yourself of government services in your own language is not only a right but also a concrete way to contribute to the vitality of your language. All New Brunswickers are entitled to receive provincial government services in the language of their choice. Moreover, the Official Languages Act requires that the provincial government take the necessary measures to let citizens know they can obtain these services in the official language of their choice. I therefore wish to take the opportunity of Provincial French Pride Week to invite all citizens to exercise their language rights.

The slogan chosen for this year’s edition – Francophones de tous les pays, venez fêter en Acadie [Francophones from around the world, come celebrate in Acadia] – alludes of course to the World Acadian Congress, which will be held this year on the Acadian Peninsula. That gathering reflects the vitality of New Brunswick’s francophone community, and we should take delight in that fact.

A language finds its expression first and foremost in the people who speak it. The presence of French in North America is explained in large part by the deep attachment of men and women to their language and culture. Despite obstacles, without the strength of numbers, they held fast. Their tenacity should inspire us to carry on their work.

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Media contact: Hugues Beaulieu, Director of Public Affairs and Research, 506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444