Bilingual school buses: it’s time to set the record straight – Dominic Caron

The French version of this commentary is available here.

Last week, Dominic Cardy, leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), suggested that we should send anglophone and francophone students to school on shared bilingual buses. Here is a  short essay on the school bus issue aimed at educating those who do not understand the purpose of separating Acadien kids from Anglophone kids in the school systems.

 The short

This is not an issue about “segregation” or “bilingualism”. This is an issue of linguistic duality. Section 16.1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) provides that “The English linguistic community and the French linguistic community in New Brunswick have equality of status and equal rights and privileges, including the right to distinct educational institutions and such distinct cultural institutions as are necessary for the preservation and promotion of those communities”.

In other words, our Constitution – the highest form of legislation in Canada – states that the French community (the “Acadiens”) and the English community of New Brunswick must have their respective school systems in order to preserve and promote these communities.

School buses are an inherent part of the schooling system. Thus, the 8 buses (out of 1200) in NB that have a mix of French and English students are unconstitutional.

Bill McChesney

Bill McChesney

The long

But, how did we get to that point? Surely it would be more efficient to have all students riding in the same buses?

Perhaps. However, this would be to the detriment of the Acadiens. As mentioned above, the Charter guarantees that the Acadiens (like the Anglophone community) have the right to their own education system for their “preservation”. You have to remember that Acadiens are a minority in this province. Their linguistic situation is much more precarious than that of the English Community. Without statutory protection such as this, the Acadiens would eventually get assimilated. In other words, we would get wiped-out.

The first Official Languages Act of New Brunswick was adopted in 1969. However, Linguistic equality was promulgated by the Government of Richard Hatfield – an Anglophone from Hartland NB – who recognized this issue in the early 1980s and provided some measures to protect the linguistic rights of Acadiens. In the early 1990s the Confederate of region party (the “CoR”) elected MLAs that advocated for the abolition of linguistic rights for the Acadiens. To prevent this imminent and important threat to the Acadiens, the then Premier of New Brunswick, Frank McKenna – an Anglophone from Apohaqui, New Brunswick – along with Federal institutions enacted Section 16.1 of the Charter mentioned above.

The decisions to provide linguistic rights to Acadiens were not taken on a whim. They were carefully crafted after thoughtful deliberations as a result of years of inequalities between the two linguistic communities of New Brunswick. These years of linguistic inequalities led to assimilation and the erosion of the Acadien community.

Don’t believe me? How many unilingual Anglophones do you know in New Brunswick that bear an Acadien last name such as LeBlanc, Leger, Ouellette, Gallant, Cormier, Comeau, Aucoin, Maillet, Caissie, Robichaud etc.? By contrast, how many people with an “English/Anglophone” last name have French as their mother tongue? The assimilation in New Brunswick continues, but at a slower rate than before the statutory linguistic protections were enacted.

I grew up in southeastern New Brunswick in the Acadien community and I know firsthand that had we shared buses with the Anglophone kids, everyone – Acadiens and Anglophones –  would’ve spoken English on the buses. This is because Acadiens in New Brunswick learn the English language ( Yes – learn! I did not know anything beyond “yes”, “no” and “toaster” until the age of 11) and use it to communicate with members of the English linguistic community. Why isn’t it the other way around? Because of the same reasons French requires statutory linguistic protection: it is a minority language in New Brunswick. Mixing Anglophone kids with Acadien kids on a school bus would expedite the assimilation of the Acadiens.

And what would be next? Sharing the same schools, the same classes? We have to draw the line somewhere. School buses are part of the school systems. In light of the above, they must remain distinct.

With respect to the “economy” – sure, mixing students would reduce governmental expenditures by a small fraction – but, at what price? Is money more important than culture and identity? By reducing the issue to economics, we fail to understand the ubiquitous concept of nationalities.

So, throwing around words like “segregation” is ignoring the linguistic reality that Acadiens face every day as a minority in this province. Our survival as a community depends on the linguistic statutory protections. Riding in a school bus with other Acadiens is a right aimed at protecting our language, our identity, our culture.

In the same vein, the First nations have constitutional rights aimed at preserving their identity and their culture. By Mr. Cardy’s logic, should those rights be abolished as well? Should we ban reserves and territorial land and force them to live amongst us, thereby assimilating them and annihilating their cultures?

Adopting a colonial approach with minorities – whether with the Acadiens, with the First Nations or with any other minority – is outdated, unconstitutional, discriminatory and simply wrong in 2015.

P.S. My use of “Acadien” and not “Acadian” is deliberate. In my opinion, the Acadien community encompasses the whole French linguistic community of NB including the Brayons.

À propos…

Dominic CaronDominic Caron was born in Dieppe and now lives in Fredericton. He is a lawyer and practices mostly labor and employment law.

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37 réponses à “Bilingual school buses: it’s time to set the record straight – Dominic Caron

  1. Pingback: Gabe Gaudet - Ontario Str8 [320 kbps ]·

  2. Why do you use the words Francophone and Acadien interchangeably? Just because you are Francophone doesn’t mean your are Acadian and just because you are Acadian doesn’t mean you are Francophone. I’m sorry, but learning another language doesn’t make you lose your own. I’m 100% Acadian and proud but not proud of the way you all act.

  3. Merci madame Lise Letourneau. Vous avez très bien décrit la situation et j’appuie ce que vous dites. Malheureusement, ce problème n’est pas compris par tous…

    • Je ne doute pas que des autobus bilingues pourraient avoir un impact minimal sur la langue minorité. Je comprends. Mais si la transportation n’est pas un droit constitutionelle, on devrait avoir le droit de la discuter. On devrait au moins avoir l’option de réaliser un solution comme dans Richibucto quand ça fait du bon sens et tous sont d’accord.

      Je suis d’accord qu’il y a beaucoup de choses que je couperais avant de toucher les autobus scolaires, mais les autobus ne devraient pas être immunisé contre les coupes économiques si ce n’est pas un droit. Vous parlez de l’impact que les autobus aient sur la langue, mais le gouvernement vient juste de couper 249 enseignantes. Cela impacte la langue aussi. Et se la province n’a plus d’argent, ça impact encore.

  4. I have read all the comments on here and I’m just floored how this has been blown out of proportion! I come from a french speaking household,and learned English growing up. I can promise you ,I haven’t lost my native language. In our town ,our kids have been seperated from the english kids for almost 2 years now. Personnaly I have always thought it was a waist of money ! I dont think that putting both french and english on a short ride to school everyday is going make the french Language disappear. The only way it would is if you let it! NB is very much in financial trouble so if it means putting both languages on the same bus than that’s what needs to be done.
    Et oui je suis francaise et fiere!

  5. You know what will solve ALL issues in anew Brubswuck???….you acadien/french use your tax dollars to support your culture only and I will use my anglophone tax dollars to support my Anglophone CULTURE ONLY. How does that sound to the 32% minority?

  6. Pingback: Autobus scolaires bilingues : le temps de remettre les pendules à l’heure – Dominic Caron – | Astheure·

  7. « Alarmée par la tragédie humanitaire en cours au Nouveau-Brunswick, l’actrice et militante pour les droits humains, Angelina Jolie était de passage au Sud du Nouveau-Brunswick ce matin pour rendre compte à l’ONU du régime d’apartheid qui, selon toutes évidences, est en implantation dans cette province canadienne. “Les unilingues anglophones vivent des injustices d’une proportion inégalée dans le monde en ce moment. J’ai vu les camps de réfugiés syriens, les régions dévastées par le virus d’Ebola, mais je n’ai jamais rien vu de tel qui se passe à Saint-Jean au Nouveau-Brunswick”»

    https://laplaise.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/apartheid-au-nouveau-brunswick-angelina-jolie-lance-un-cri-du-coeur/

  8. OKay, so are you talking francophones or acadiens? You can be french and not acadien, and acadien but not french. Get it? Obviously not. So, if your think the the acadien kids need to be separate, what about all the french from the Grand Falls/ Edmundston area? Are they included? Figure out your terms Acadien=culture, Francophone= french speaking. The French Acadens in this province NEED to stop confusing these terms, they are NOT interchangeable in NB. (kids are kids, let them socialize, otherwise they will never get along)

  9. the Danish seem to be able to have a heritage and language with out costing me a cent in this province and no whining same bus also

  10. Just another quick comment. Until we find out whether transportation is actually a right, can we stop saying that Cardy is attacking minority rights?

  11. Concernant si le transport scolaire est un droit, la partie pertinente de la Charte est l’article 23(3)(b).

    Le droit reconnu aux citoyens canadiens de faire instruire leurs enfants, aux niveaux primaire et secondaire, dans la langue de la minorité francophone ou anglophone d’une province comprend, lorsque le nombre de ces enfants le justifie, le droit de les faire instruire dans des établissements d’enseignement de la minorité linguistique financés sur les fonds publics.

    Notez le terme «établissements». Maintenant, si vous passez à Arsenault-Cameron c. Île-du-Prince Édouard qui est cité par Cardy et Rousselle, paragraphe 61 dit (comme jugé par la Cour suprême de l’Île‑du‑Prince‑Édouard).:

    « La Section d’appel a commis une erreur en concluant que la décision du ministre respectait l’obligation imposée par l’art. 23 à la province de promouvoir l’instruction et de fournir des établissements dans la langue de la minorité, et que des autobus pouvaient être considérés comme des établissements d’enseignement. »

    Donc, la Cour suprême a expressément déclaré que les autobus scolaires ne sont pas considérés comme une «établissement» comme décrit dans l’article 23 de la Charte. Je ne suis pas un avocat, mais il me semble indiquer le transport scolaire ne doit pas être considéré comme un droit constitutionnel.

  12. Regarding whether school transportation is a right, the relevant part of the Charter is section 23(3)(b).

    « The right of citizens of Canada to have their children receive primary and secondary school instruction in the language of the English or French linguistic minority population of a province includes, where the number of those children so warrants, the right to have them receive that instruction in minority language educational facilities provided out of public funds. »

    Note the term « facilities ». Now if you skip to the Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island court case being cited by both Cardy and Rousselle, para 61 states (as ruled by the PEI Supreme Court):

    « The Appeal Division erred in accepting that the decision of the Minister was consistent with the s. 23 obligations of the province to promote and provide instruction and facilities in the minority language and in concluding that buses could be considered educational facilities. »

    So the Supreme Court specifically stated that school buses are not considered a « facility » as described in section 23 of the Charter. I’m not a lawyer, but to me it seems to indicate the school transportation should not be considered a Constitutional right.

    • I agree with you Will. As a transplanted Acadian in Ontario, I see children board the public buses everyday to go to school. The only students driven to school in a yellow school bus are elementary students.
      This means most French and English school board children ride the same bus!

      Although the laws governing the rights of the language minorities is different in Ontario, I believe that this just goes to show other francophone communities are ok with bilingual transport.

      Cost cutting measures are needed, especially with a maritime province such as New Brunswick. Now, I’m NOT suggesting mergers between French schools and French Immersion, nor am I advocating the removal of funding for French Acadian cultural affairs.

      All I am saying is that in some areas, where buses are half empty for each school board because of low enrolment or low population, they SHOULD double up students on the buses.

      Separate institutions is mandated in our Constitution. School buses are not included, nor should they be included.

      I think this is all getting blown out of proportion by vehement language rights advocates, and that if a poll was conducted, most francophones in NB would agree with me.

  13. If the French communities are all about preserving their culture and want to isolate their children from one particular language (and English friends). Why don’t you stop going to the movies (since they’re played in English), stop going ino the major cities (since they speak English), stop going to their jobs (since English is the main language spoken) and only buy your groceries from your little community corner store.
    How will these children cope with the real world when they get on public transportation and get a real job and realize that people speak English in the real world and all over the country and world. What happens when New Brunswick completely colapses and they have to move elsewhere and they can’t speak English properly?
    Since you’re so concerned about your own rights, I should be concerned about mine and the harm that travelling to school along with French speaking students has done to me. The government has apparently violated my rights by allowing French speaking students on a obviously English speaking bus. Why were we not protected? For 13 years I was violated. What is the government goin to do for me now?

    • The two system is not intent to isolate our childrens from one particular language, it’s made to bring them to school. movies are shown in french in théâtres around here and there is other movies outside of Hollywood and they are in french too. A lot of major cities are francophone and i don’t have to speak in English at work because of the reality of my job.
      I don’t think french student need to be in the same bus to realize that people speak English. It is a language that is use all over the world in many countries as you probably already know.
      There is a whole world of culture outhere. And as a minority in numbers it’s necessary to give an environement to our kids so that they can live in their culture.
      I’m not worried after that for them to learn English, the french kids did pretty good by now. And more and more anglophone kids can speak in french too, i was pretty surprise by them when i saw a repport lately that was made in an English school.

  14. If we have a bilingual schoolbus system, schoolbus drivers will have to be bilingual. First for security, to be able to manage an emergency situation, and second because the government have the obligation to serve both communities.

    • If that’s what it comes to, then so be it. In some places in Canada though, students use public transport to get to school, and I’m not sure the bus driver language comes into play. As long as the driver speaks the main language of the community I don’t see it doing anything other than mirroring the rest of the student’s daily life. For young kids I agree that a bilingual bus driver would be necessary, but for older kids not so much. There may be other solutions to this problem as well.

      I think we should keep in mind though that even if combining buses is possible (i.e., not a Constitutional right), it doesn’t mean it absolutely has to happen. It just means that it can be done when common sense dictates that it’s a cost-effective, common sense solution like the situation in Richibucto.

  15. Are you really a lawyer? *dislcaimer, i’m not* Section 16.1 of the charter states that english and french need to pe provided with equal rights to educational and cultural institutions. In Charlebois v. Mowat, it was stated that 16.1 was « remedial ». From that precedent, wouldn’t you have to argue that a significant part of the french cultural assimilation stems from school bus rides. I would argue that it’s impact would be insignificant.

    In fact, i’d go as far as saying that segregation would harm the french language just as much. You’re creating a social dichotomy, where a minority is isolated rather than integrated into a social climate. Not that you can do that anyways, because you can’t control culture no matter how hard you try to legislate it.

    This is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and another way for french xenophobes to futilely try to preserve their culture at everyone’s expense.

    – Proud Francophone

  16. So are the « Acadiens » the only special interest group aforded this protection under Section 16.1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms , or, are non Acadien citizens with French ancestry also aforded this constitutional right? This is a laughable discussion.

  17. Ok, let’s « set the record straight » as you say in your headline. What you and the Minister « conveniently » overlook is that the charter mandates « minority language educational facilities » but says nothing specifically about transportation. The Minister also referenced a 2000 Supreme Court of Canada decision (Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island)… but again it was « conveniently » overlooked that the decision actually struck down an earlier PEI court ruling that said buses could be considered educational facilities (Section 61 ruling – « The Appeal Division erred… in concluding that buses could be considered educational facilities. » ) I’m tired of hearing this lame excuse that segregated (yes, by definition this amounts to segregation) busing is a charter right when in fact it is not. If the Acadian culture can be threatened with a simple drive to school, then you have bigger issues to deal with. What’s next, English and French kids can’t walk to school together on the same sidewalk? I have no issue with the separate school systems, but this transportation issue is ridiculous, use a little common sense. This foolishness has gone on long enough, people are taking notice and standing up to the bigotry and ignorance of these special interest groups trying to force their skewed views on everyone.

    • I completely agree. If separate buses aren’t a Constitutional right (I’m not an expert on the law but I tend to agree that it’s not covered), then it’s simply a « nice to have » in a province where even more hurtful cuts are taking place. You know what else is nice to have? Pretty much everything that took a hit in today’s budget. Just because it’s a minority language issue doesn’t mean that it should be completely immune to cost cutting measures. And even if it’s deemed not to be a right, it doesn’t mean every single bus should be combined. It does leave the option open though for situations where it makes sense.

  18. « School buses are an inherent part of the schooling system. »

    What about all the students who walk or get driven to school? What about all the places across Canada where students use public transit instead of school buses to get to school. Would that be unconstitutional in NB because of the possibility of mixed language?

    I don’t doubt that a mixed school bus might have a small impact on the minority language, but lots of thing can impact a minority language, and not all those things are protected under the Constitution. Education is indeed covered, but transportation may not be, and that is what Cardy is asking to be clarified. He’s simply asking the question. From the PEI court case cited by both Rousselle and Cardy, I personally think Cardy at least has a case.

  19. Thank you so much for explaining this in English, because anglophones are the target audience. TRES BIEN DIT! Most anglophones with an iota of imagination understand why unilingual buses are required; it’s not rocket science. When I lived in Korea and wanted to learn the Korean language, I did not hang around « U.S. Town » – I went where to authentically Korean businesses. Why? Because I wanted to learn the language. I knew that in majority English surroundings, English is always spoken. I had to be sure to go where people COULDN’T speak English if I wanted to speak Korean.

    Every Acadien knows the ratio of anglophones it takes to turn a room English: 1 to x. (1 English speaker turns a room of 2 into an English room, and 1 English speaker turns a room of 25 into an English room.) Of course kids who are in a French school system need French buses or every bus would be an English bus! Chiac and Acadian French are a treasure much, much too priceless to endanger with these foolish shenanigans of late. Linguists the world over study our special brand of French, and New Brunswickers abroad in Quebec marvel at how lovely and generous the language relations are in our little province in comparison with the Quebecois vitriol. Please, let’s not give this hick anti-bilingualism movement any extra energy and let’s be sure to vote in politicians for whom bilingualism is a treasure, a point of pride, and an asset.

    And for the record, moi chu anglophone. 😉

  20. Has anyone asked the parents of the french children if they noticed different behaviors after they took english buses? Are the children speaking english (or worse ‘franglais’)? Are they wearing clothes associated to the english culture? Did they become loyal to the British crown?

    Is there proof of assimilation?

    Or is this just another example of the french community over reacting?

  21. We are broke because to many people do work under the table and don’t pay their taxes like everyone else and the miss management of our politicians in power. I am not referring to Mr. Gallant since he is trying to fix our economy.

    • Lisa, we’re broke because there is no one working HERE (under the table at least gets spent at the end of the day). I will refer to yesterdays disappointing news that NB (for the first time) had more deaths than births. This is because NBers (French and English alike) are leaving. Shouldn’t we be FOCUSED on getting more people to come here and keeping what we have left? Not a few kids on a bus with English-speaking children.

    • If people are working under the table, it’s probably because there are so few jobs in NB. I can’t blame people for taking what they can get.

  22. Merci M. Dominic Caron pour cet article, vous exprimez bien toutes mes pensées sur ce sujet. Je suis Québécoise vivant au NB depuis 2007 et je vois ces idées de ségrégations et d injustices prononcées a tous les jours et ca me crève le cœur de constater a quel point les gens de la majorité n ont toujours rien compris de ce qu’ est notre constante lutte a protéger notre culture, notre langue française et notre identité. Ces gens ont encore cette mentalité de colonisateurs. L Angleterre vous a conquit maintenant apprenez notre langue et notre façon de vivre. J aimerais savoir le pourcentage des gens de langue anglo-saxonne qui one fait l effort d apprendre une autre langue. Ayant vécu aux USA durant 25 ans, on me parlait de la cause des Québécois au Canada et je leurs disait, vous n avez pas d idée combien les Canadiens Français sont déterminés à défendre leur langue et leur culture car même si on baigne dans une mer d Anglos on a toujours réussit a la garder et toujours avec une grande fierté. Vous voyez comme on est têtu.
    Bon enfin je garde votre article afin d informer mes amis du Facebook sur .la Section 16.1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Je suis demeurée silencieuse depuis 2 semaines avec le cœur bien lourd. Merci M. Caron de cet article. Je la partagerai.

    • Il n’est pas facile d’apprendre le français, et ce type de déclaration est très insultant pour les adultes que je connais qui ont payé beaucoup trop d’argent et ont essayé très fort pour apprendre la langue mais ont failli. J’ai prix l’immersion française et je peux comprendre la langue, mais j’aurais zéro chance à passer un test pour un position bilingue. Je vis dans une ville principalement anglophone, et je peux compter sur une main le nombre de fois que j’ai eu besoin d’utiliser la langue orale dans les 15 dernières années. Lorsque vous n’êtes pas immergé dans la langue, il est presque impossible d’apprendre et à entretenir. Certains francophones unilingues rencontrent le même problème, mais toutes les grandes villes du NB sont principalement anglais, donc le problème n’est pas si répandu. Les anglophones ne sont pas aider par le fait que la majorité de la culture pop (les musiciens, films, livres, émissions de télévision, etc.) est en anglais. Je suis sûr que beaucoup de francophones pourraient chanter une chanson de Katy Perry… essayez de trouver le même en sens inverse. Ce n’est pas un problème d’être paresseux. Nous avons aussi des préoccupations réelles.

  23. This is the most ridiculous essay I’ve read in a while; it’s actually a little funny when you try to think as the author clearly does… victimized.

    So let me get this straight. He is arguing for more busses for the 80(ish) French-speaking students effected? I understand that sometimes an economic argument is silly, but this is not the case. We’re broke (period). That’s REAL, not something to shrug off.

    New Brunswick needs to get itself together, financially, socially, culturally, etc. We don’t need to be focusing on ridiculously small « issues » such as this author’s silly view that busses are somehow, in and of themselves alone, cultural or educational « institutions. » It’s a BUS… a box with wheels so parents don’t have to drive their kids to school.

    As a bilingual Anglophone, I can appreciate maintaining/supporting the Acadian culture, but we can’t keep pouring money down the drain every time someone says « it’s not fair. »

    • I seriously doubt that buses are going to make or break the NB economy. Economies go up and down. But I can tell you that when a language is lost, it’s a permanent loss that hurts everyone.

      • « Economies go up and down » Hahahaha, if you knew anything about the financial system you’d know this is only true under boom-bust economics, which we are not invested in.

        Additionally, our « economy » has been down for a while now.

  24. A more pragmatic approach would be to have 75% French 25% English on buses. Call it French immersion.

    • Even if it were a 99% French bus, the kids would be speaking English. That’s just the way it is when a language is competing with things like Hollywood and video games and microsoft. Of course, francophone kids’ lives are richer for learning another language, but not if they lose their own.

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