January 27, 2007
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the fifth in a series of nine feature articles prepared for Heritage Week, Feb. 12 – 19, 2007. Entitled ‘Spotlight on our Heritage’, this series is a reflection upon the people, places, and collections of New Brunswick’s past. This article has been prepared by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, a proud partner in Heritage Week 2007. For more information on Heritage Week activities throughout the province, please visit the Heritage Week 2007 website.
Our Rights, Our Freedoms – Our Heritage: Language Rights in New Brunswick
In recognition of language rights as an integral part of “Our Rights, Our Freedoms – Our Heritage”, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is proud to take part in Heritage Week 2007.
New Brunswick’s status as an officially bilingual province, the Official Languages Act, and the initiatives and undertakings aimed at fostering the development of linguistic communities and bilingualism, are underpinned by the desire to respect and promote fundamental rights, including those relating to language and culture.
The language rights New Brunswick currently enjoys are not the product of chance, but rather stem from a heritage bequeathed to us over the past few centuries. Our founding peoples lived through numerous conflicts associated with the settlement of Canada. They survived the deportation and bore witness to different treaties that altered the course of their lives and thus our history. In 1867, the British North America Act also played a major role in the destiny of the peoples of this province by making New Brunswick a part of Canada. Many years later, Canada’s Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms brought about absolute respect for our citizens.
In recent years, New Brunswick has taken giant steps in the area of language rights, by adopting legislation to protect the rights of its two linguistic communities. Hard work and determination on the part of one people, coupled with the co-operation and goodwill of the other, paved the way for the emergence of diverse communities that are rich in language, culture and traditions, and that contribute to the vitality of this province.
We must always acknowledge the difficulties and obstacles faced by minority francophone communities. The choice and the right to receive services in one’s language is often not an easy matter. The francophone community cannot rest on its achievements. It must work incessantly to further its language rights. Each effort to preserve and promote the French language brings the francophone community closer to its goal.
In New Brunswick, the freedom to speak and to be understood in one’s mother tongue is more and more commonplace, and the right to receive services in the language of one’s choice is firmly entrenched. These freedoms are in turn shaping and enriching the heritage of New Brunswick’s society of tomorrow.
An ability to communicate is crucial to harmony between linguistic communities. Knowledge of both official languages facilitates dialogue, as well as the sharing of ideas, and helps bring communities closer together. Knowledge of a second language is a key that opens wide the doors to another linguistic community coexisting with ours. Its richness, its history, culture, literature, and music, previously unknown to us, is just waiting to be discovered.
People have always been the drivers of the evolution of their society. By using their language rights and their freedom to speak the language of their choice in day-to-day life, New Brunswickers are contributing actively to the evolution of the only officially bilingual province in Canada.
In this era of globalization, New Brunswick is aware of its favoured position when it comes to bilingualism. The open-mindedness shown by our communities is a great boon to our economic and cultural exchanges. New Brunswick is seen, even by countries where neither English nor French is spoken, as a place that welcomes linguistic diversity, thus enabling it to establish partnerships and do business with other provinces and countries.
The goodwill shown by the majority within New Brunswick means that, ultimately, everyone will be able to live their lives to the fullest in French or English. All linguistic communities will feel at home while deriving satisfaction from seeing their language and culture being valued.
For more information about language rights in New Brunswick, visit the website of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Alison Aiton, communications, Wellness, Culture and Sport, 506-457-6445; Patricia Parent, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, 506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444.