Canadian or French, what are we going to be? Or “Canadians or French, who will we be?
By André Faust (Nov 21, 2018)
33 years ago Blaine Higgs while a member of (CoR) Confederation of Regions presented his report to the Advisory Committee on Official Languages of New Brunswick. Blain was less than complimentary to the Francophone population of New Brunswick. 33 years later is patronizing the Francophone population. L’Acadie Nouvelle received a copy of Blaine Higgs handwritten manifesto which was tabled by Official Languages of New Brunswick.
His1985 manifesto titled “Canadian or French, what are we going to be? Or “Canadians or French, who will we be? sounded more like Teddy Roosevelt’s speech on the assimilation of immigrants. If you read Roosevelt’s speech and compare it to the Higgs manifesto you will see some similarities.
“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American … There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag … We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language … and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.” – Theodore Roosevelt 1907
In his manifesto, Higgs was critical of the Federal Government because they were negotiating a dollar and cent settlement with Japanese Canadians to compensate Canadian residents of Japanese origin who were interned at two main camps, Camp P and Camp X, not only adults but women and children as well. The Canadian government also seized their assets, these civilians were not prisoners of war. (“Thematic Guides – Internment Camps in Canada during the First and Second World Wars – Library and Archives Canada”, 2018)
Canada was in the wrong by interning and taking away assets from Canadian residents who were of Japenese origin and not prisoners of war, yet Blaine Higgs opposed compensating the Japanese for the Canadian wrongdoing.
Throughout his manifesto Blaine Higgs, the theme was English only in New Brunswick even though the Canadian charter of rights explicitly says that New Brunswick is a bilingual province.
It is rare that a person will change their core beliefs and take the opposite position. One has to question the motive behind Premier Higgs for his change of heart.
Here is Premier Blaine Higgs 1985 Manifesto in its entirety
Canadian or French, what are we going to be? Or “Canadians or French, who will we be?
I am native of a small English speaking village located on the Maine new Brunswick border. In this community, I grew up in constant association with American neighbours. It was through this association that I soon came to realize low supportive and proud these Americans are of their country. In an emergency situation, which is when the real test would come, it is easy to see how forcefully with a people would stand united in defence of their country under one flag, one government and one language. This is further illustrated as American, in general, continue to brag about their country and openly state that quotation nothing is as good as the united states quote. Isn’t it wonderful to be so proud of a nation and not ashamed to admit it?
Canada also has this same potential, but we must return to a rational system and get away from the unrealistic fantasies of linguistic rates in all sectors. I challenge each and every citizen in this country to consider their loyalty to Canada as a nation as being first and foremost in their personal gold. We are not and will never achieve such loyalty and unity while at the same time embarking on a course supporting two different cultures.
In our military forces, alone, we have an English and a French division. In the event of a conflict which we must stand together, we could not even communicate amongst the very power which was to defend our country. Even if all the troops were bilingual we would no doubt stand at the front and argue which language the orders were to be given then while the enemy walks over us.
We have, as was recently stated, some 80 different cultures in this fine country. Imagine the chaos if each one of them demanded services in their native tongue and of course, the government in there current accommodating fashion would endeavour to provide it. This May seem, at first glance to be ridiculous to even suggest but consider the fact the Federal government is currently negotiating monetary settlement with Japanese Canadians to compensate for alleged afflictions occurring some 50 years ago. The decision at that time was made in the interests of national defense and it should not have to be paid for by the Canadian Taxpayers generations later. The Japanese Canadian Lobby groups demand repayment monetarily and s reveal their true allegiance to Canada and that is for personal gain.
Returning, now, closer to the homefront we find the French Canadians in Quebec have now illustrated their true allegiance, to Canada as a nation, by divorcing themselves from the majority of Canadians and to alienate these English speaking Canadians in their own province. There is only one clear goal in this pursuit and that is for “French Power” at any cost.
The rest of Canada sits idly by while the Federal government pours millions of dollars into Quebec and elevates Quebec to a status unequalled by another Canadian province. This is all done in the name of keeping Quebec within confederation. We must not continue to cater to the idealist pursuit which will only divide our country. our path is one of divisiveness among our people and if this continues we would be better served to negotiate separation as an alternative which I personally hope is never required.
As stated Quebec has made their stand and that is to be French and French alone. We must recognize and be impressed by their persistence and dedication to the French cause, not the Canadian cause.
It is now time to get to the real issues in question at this time and that is the issue of bilingualism within this already poorer Canadian province of New Brunswick. At this time we are the sacrificial province for the bilingual issue across Canada, as we are the only bilingual Canadian province. It is for this very reason that we must stand and clearly demonstrate the problems which are being created.
Premier Richard Hatfield upon his initial election to office in the late sixties chose at that time to ignore the vows of the majority. Premier Lous J. Robichaud had put forward the proposal for the Official Languages Act just before he was voted out of office and this should have been indicators enough for Premier Hatfield, upon his victory that the majority of people did not support this act. His subsequent re-elections to office should not be attributed as the people supporting his policies but instead the lack of choice in the eyes of the voters for a government which could truly represent them. I feel the name Hatfield has carried him for many years.
Currently, we still have no such party which will listen to the people and take a stand for them, thus the inevitable formation of an Association dedicated solely for the preservation of the English speaking Canadians. Despite the radical image that has been portrayed by the media and the elements of bigotry that have been thrown at this association it is still well supported throughout the province. With re-organization and a clear development of the Association’s goals, we will see it’s continued rapid growth. This could eventually result in the formation of a political party will truly represent the majority.
The Poirier Bastarache Report clearly does not reflect a representative sample of the people of New Brunswick of the people of New Brunswick. It instead reflects the deeply biased viewpoint of the three French authors and the one English author, thrown is as a token gesture, who really is not part of the issue as he is an out of province resident. Many English speaking moderates feel there must be just caused to all of these demands, based on linguistic rights. because of the amount of noise that is being generated. I would like to emphasize, However, that many of these so-called spokesmen for the French minority are on a payroll of some sort to fight for this cause. In many cases, this is a government payroll which means the Canadian Taxpayers is supporting financially those activists who peruse the breakdown of our national unity. In support of this argument,, consider the thousands of dollars that have been spent by the government to finance this report. I was told at the first round of those sessions, by Bernard Poirier, one of the authors, that the cost of publishing of the reports was free of charge. Can you possibly imagine who would be too kind as to published an unlimited supply of these reports absolutely free? The whole issue reeks of below board tactics.
Another issue worthy of note, by those moderate overtaken by compassion for the cause, was on the Federal front. This was regarding the formation of the Canadian Parents for French organization. This was not started and funded by the concerned French Parents as one might tend to believe but organized and funded by the Federal government. Additionally, the Federal government provided assistance for different groups to take the Provincial government to court to face the provision of French education. Is this what unity is all about, the Federal government versus the provinces?
I dismiss the Poirier Bastarache repost as being biassed, unnecessary and not promoting the real needs of the New Brunswick People. I cannot support arguments that New Brunswick residents are suffering because they cannot get service in their mother tongue. The point is the service is being provided. According to the report, only 16% of the New Brunswick population are unilingual French. This would indicate that 84% or approximately 195,000 Francophones in this province can speak English. The existing government policies appear to support the idea that even though a person speaks fluent English they have a right to refuse services in that language. When are we going to grow up and start acting like responsible citizens in the real world?
For the 16% or 37,000 unilingual Francophones in this province, we should develop an English Immersion Program instead of the current French Immersion Program for the estimated 66% or 350,000 unilingual Anglophones. The Anglophone population Have a long-standing history of being compassionate and tolerant of the needs of others especially when these needs are justified. However, in this situation, I feel the breaking point is fast approaching.
Let us now truly examine the cultural motivation of the Acadians. As stated in the report they have a higher rate of unemployment and an average lower income than do Anglophones in the other parts of the province. If I had chosen to stay in my native village I would no doubt have had a much lower income as I would have been unemployed. I instead chose to move to where the work was. I did not feel slighted nor did I feel the government should have provided employment in my hometown. In the case of the northern part of the province, we are dealing with a greater number of people whose jobless rate is abnormally high and the government should show additional interest to stimulate the economy of this region. The private sector must be encouraged to invest in this area. It does not seem likely if industrial entrepreneurs are plagued with language restrictions they will be here to invest. It must be emphasized that the greater number of investors comes from the English speaking sector whether it is foreign or otherwise. The province can not and will not ever function effectively by the legislation of additional burdens on the investment groups.
The money spent by the government to teach everyone French and to duplicate all governmental services could be better be utilized to create jobs and improve the standard of living for the average New Brunswicker especially in the northern part of the province. The formation of a French dual government system as proposed will satisfy only those activists in pursuit of a personal power struggle. Democratically the northern part of the province can elect whomever they choose to represent them and I do not feel the Anglophone portion of the Government will oppose improvements to their economic situation. I do not feel that supply the entire north shore with government jobs is the answer to the economic woes of the region.
I would like to emphasize that I am not supporting bigotry but reality and I am sure that many of the moderates both Anglophone and Francophone will agree.
1) The Poirier Bastarache Report entitled “Towards Equality of Official Languages in New Brunswick” be dismissed in its entirety as being unnecessary and impractical.
2) The government of New Brunswick confront the people of Ne Brunswick with a referendum asking; Should New Brunswick have only one official language and should that language be English? Yes or No. Accompanying information should include the actual costs of the current and proposed duplication.
3) The educational system return to the previously higher standard than now currently being offered.
In place of the French Immersion Programs a qualified level of teaching the French language to be offere3d to all New Brunswick students equally as part of the regular school curriculum.
4) The government stress through the future policies the concept that cultures are a personal issue and in this land can be practiced as a personal basis. From this point on the government will support only once culture and that is Canadian and only the language of the vast majority and that is English.
5) A qualified educational program is set up to teach those unilingual Francophones the English language so they will be able to communicate effectively with government agencies. This does not restrict the use of their mother tongue for any other activity.
6) I urge all New Brunswickers to examine the issues at hand. Look closely at the real driving force behind the French cause and the source of the funds which support it. I do not wish to hold any prejudices toward the Francophones but I Feel our current course is one of division and conflictions. I wish only to return to the system where qualification and ability takes precedence over the language or speaks contrary to the report I do not feel that all Francophones suffer from an identity crisis. I work every day with Francophones who are well qualified and every bit as capable as any Anglophones. They do not need to rely on being hired for a job because they are French but because they are capable individuals and that is the way it should be.
Blaine M. Higgs