On Tuesday, September 4, from 7 to 8 pm, the Current Events group will meet at Moncton Library. This time, I have decided to enter the lions' den. I will be talking about languages in New Brunswick.
I had a good deal of experience in this. I was, for at least a dozen years, on the provincial executive of the English rights group in Quebec, Alliance Quebec. But that does not indicate my sympathies in New Brunswick. I was an English-speaking Quebecker ---AND I was a member of a linguistic minority. So I know a good deal of what it means to be a member of a linguistic minority.
As a result, my sympathies in New Brunswick are with bilingualism - and with the minority. I find myself largely in agreement with Norbert Cunningham's views in today's Moncton Times and Transcript. But I do have some problems with the situation.
The language of the debate among Acadians seems to draw heavily from the francophone press in Quebec. That's dangerous to Acadians for two reasons. The first is the use of the word culture. Almost nobody knows what that word means. Nobody, French, English, Sudanese or Turkish, has ever defined the "culture" of his or her society. And there is no such thing as preserving a culture.
This is not a small point. Culture is a word that rouses strong emotions; and when you arouse strong emotions over a word nobody understands, you create passions and hatreds - and passions and hatreds are bad for logic and problem-solving. By focusing on language and culture, Quebec has made itself into a basket case, with fifty years that should have been spent planning for realities wasted in hatreds and words that nobody understands. That's why it finds itself today with the PQ running on pure hatred, with the Liberals, as usual, following suit in a weaker way, and with other parties that make no sense at all any issue.
The other point is that New Brunswick is not Quebec. Even if the babble about culture made sense in Quebec, it would make none in New Brunswick. New Brunswick is a very different place from Quebec. To copy Quebec objectives, never a good idea in the first place, would be harmful for Acadians.
Finally, New Brunswick desperately needs to plan for the future, a planning that goes far beyond the juvenile efforts of our provincial and municipal governments. We can't afford to throw away the time we have left (if, indeed, we do have time).
Generally, New Brunswickers are dealing well with bilingualism better than any province in Canada. There is more to be done. But we won't get it done by pretending this is Quebec.
What can I say about The Moncton Times and Transcript for today?
There is an amusing headline on p. C13. "Ryan promises to lead America back". True enough. But America is already so far back, it won't be a bit trip.
There's a trivial editorial in which the editorial writer who has, in the past, posed as an expert on events centres, shale gas, and bus drivers' salaries, now offer sage advice on what to do with an old fire station.
Norbert's column is decent - better than decent. Alec Bruce's is an important one. Harper is leading us in to very serious and unfixable trouble with the free hand he's giving to the oil industry. There will be one hell of a price to pay tomorrow. (I see Harper as the heroine in that final shot in Gone with the Wind when, looking more that usually dippy, she flashes an insane grin, and says, "Tomorrow is another day.")
Rod Allen gives us yet another story about life in his family. Seriously, who could possibly give a damn?
And, oh, I have to quarrel with Jody Dallaire. I don't believe we should lower the voting age to 16. All qualms about age aside, I think we have far more serious problems to deal with in our democratic structure.
There's a good letter from Joyce Carter in Letters to the Editor. It's about how Harper, the man who preaches his patriotism by putting pictures of the Queen on every bare wall in the country, and solemnly reminds us of what we owe our veterans - is also the Harper who brutally cuts services to those very people he says we owe so much to.
Remember Tuesday, Sept. 4, 7 p.m. at the Moncton Library.