A Matter of Respect
A lifetime Moncton resident, Larry Nelson has been a close witness of the evolution of the two linguistic communities. Over the years, he has helped to build bridges between anglophones and francophones. For this businessman and respected community leader, serving a person in his or her language of choice is a simple matter of respect.
Larry Nelson grew up playing with anglophone and francophone kids. “Half my friends were French, half were English,” he said. He remembers being puzzled by the fact that some French kids, as they were called then, rarely spoke French in front of him. “I never realized that some went home at night and were told that the English people didn’t like them to speak French.” Things have changed a lot since then, Larry believes. “Many of my best friends are francophone, and when I’m with them, they speak French because they’re comfortable and they also know I’m comfortable. I know they’ll talk to me in my language if needed.”
Larry is a strong supporter of French as a second language. “We’re the only bilingual province, and this city is a bilingual city, so why wouldn’t you learn French?” wonders this well-known businessman. “My proudest moment was when my son got his Chartered Accountant, he did his internship in a Francophone firm. This [bilingualism] opens so many doors. Speaking both languages is an advantage everybody should have.”
As a kid, Larry Nelson wanted to play for the Aigles Bleus, the Université de Moncton’s hockey team. He didn’t have the opportunity because he started working right after high school. However, recognizing what the Université de Moncton brings to the city, he became an important contributor to their fundraising campaign. “This community is as good as it gets because of the university.” He admits that a few people questioned him at first about his involvement with the francophone institution. His answer was simple: “I don’t have time for that.”
As president of Groupe Lounsbury Group, Larry makes sure that front-line staff are bilingual. “If you’re going to serve a community, you have to be able to serve them in their language.” It’s worth noting that signs on the Lounsbury Furniture Store on Mountain Road are in both languages. “I do it out of respect for the fact that we’re in a city that is bilingual.”
Larry is also known for his strong spirit of cooperation. A few years ago, when he was asked to be the chairman of the Friends of The Moncton Hospital Foundation, he told the board that the first thing he’d like to do was a campaign with the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont Hospital Foundation. He was told that the two foundations had their own activities. That didn’t keep Mr. Nelson from talking with his counterpart. Both foundations saw the benefits of working together, and the Hand and Hand – Main dans la Main lottery was launched.
Asked for his thoughts about the application of the Official Language Act and language policies, Larry Nelson’s reply was very simple: “You have a policy, manage it. Don’t allow people who are supposed to be able to speak both languages at the front desk to be there if they can’t speak both languages. Saying I don’t speak French isn’t an answer.”
Respect. A key word for Larry Nelson in making sure both official languages are treated equally. “It’s a two- way street: if you give respect, you get respect,” he concluded.