Kris Austin appointed to the Official Languages Act Review Committee
“This is totally disgusting, disgusting” , says the president of the SANB, Alexandre Cédric Doucet.
Minister and former People's Alliance of New Brunswick Leader Kris Austin
The appointment of Progressive Conservative Minister and former People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin to a committee responsible for studying the issue of official languages in New Brunswick caused a wave of indignation. The Société de l'Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick (SANB) and opposition MPs strongly denounce what they describe as an attack on Francophones.
Reporters questioned Premier Blaine Higgs on the composition of the ad hoc committee charged with examining the review of the Official Languages Act on Friday. Blaine Higgs hesitated before responding that there are a number of people who represent caucus on this committee, including Kris Austin.
The committee is made up of Premier Blaine Higgs, Ministers Kris Austin, Daniel Allain, Réjean Savoie, Ted Flemming, Margaret Johnson, Dorothy Shephard, Mike Holland and Bill Hogan, and MP Greg Turner.
The Prime Minister has indicated that it is important to him that the members of this committee be able to represent a range of voices. According to him, they have met twice in the past month and are working very well.
Blaine Higgs does not think this could create friction with the French-speaking community.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has defended the composition of a committee informal committee tasked with examining the review of the Official Languages Act.
No, because we have a balance in the committee. I don't want to see another conflict in the province that would lead to the creation of a political party representing people who have concerns about their ability to speak both languages, he said.
According to Blaine Higgs, there is no evidence that Kris Austin does not support his party's positions on official languages and bilingualism.
L' The arrival of Kris Austin to the Progressive Conservative Party and his appointment as minister last month had startled several Acadian organizations.
In recent years, the People's Alliance of New Brunswick has often defended positions hostile to official bilingualism.
Kris Austin has already indicated that he was in favor of a merger of the two health networks, the end of the duality in school transportation and the lowering of language requirements in the public service, for example for paramedics.
Jill Green, Jeff Carr, Kris Austin and Réjean Savoie have secured ministerial posts during a cabinet reshuffle, made on October 13 after the resignation of Dominic Cardy as Minister of Education. (Archives)
Kris Austin did not respond to Radio-Canada's interview request on Friday.
In the evening, a government spokesperson sent a written statement attributed to him, in which Kris Austin says he has always supported and [will continue] to support the right of French and English speakers to receive services in the language of their choice in our officially bilingual province.
I participate in the committee to offer my ideas on how we should do this in a fair and equitable manner, taking into account the linguistic composition of New Brunswick. Sharing diverse opinions and ideas promotes healthy conversation, he adds.
The SANB strongly denounces the appointment of Kris Austin to this committee. The organization deplores the cynicism of the Higgs government and affirms that this leaves no ambiguity about its intentions regarding official languages.
The president of the New Brunswick Acadian Society, Alexandre Cédric Doucet (archives)
< p class="e-p">In the opinion of the president of the SANB, Alexandre Cédric Doucet, the relationship of trust [with the Higgs government] is no longer there. He claims that it is impossible to envisage a meeting with the Prime Minister in the short or medium term.
We no longer trust the Prime Minister on any issue, that's clear, says Alexandre Cédric Doucet.
“We tried to build bridges and above all to avoid a crisis that would have been useless. By letting the wolf into the fold and giving it all the necessary nuisance power on a plate, Blaine Higgs' Conservative Party is deliberately burning bridges with the Acadian community. »
— Alexandre Cédric Doucet, president of the SANB
Alexandre Cédric Doucet indicates that an emergency meeting to discuss the bond of trust with the government provincial is to take place next Monday with other Acadian organizations.
For his part, the president of the Francophone Association of New Brunswick Municipalities, Yvon Godin, denounces this appointment. He says after constantly rejecting his response to the report on the review of the Official Languages Act, now the Prime Minister is appointing the most anti-Francophone of his MPs to the committee that is to study its recommendations.
The President of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities (FCFA), Liane Roy, declares in turn that the action taken by the Government of New Brunswick is serious and calls for Francophone solidarity across the country .
The leader of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick, Susan Holt, calls this appointment an affront.
It seems like a big middle finger to the francophone communities of New Brunswick, said she says point-blank.
She maintains that Kris Austin's opinions are well known and that the Prime Minister could have consulted him without appointing him to this committee.< /p>
Liberal Leader Susan Holt, Green MP Kevin Arseneau and Green Party Leader David Coon at a scrum
New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon is also shocked.
< p>” This is unacceptable. Mr. Austin's views are well known. […] He has no business discussing recommendations on official languages.
— New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon
Kent North Green MP Kevin Arsenault calls on the Premier to create a Standing Committee on Official Languages where these issues would be discussed in a transparent manner.
This is unacceptable, because it is done in private. We don't know where the influence is, we don't know what is being said, he says.
The federal Minister of Official Languages, New Brunswicker Ginette Petitpas Taylor, was speechless when she heard the news.
I couldn't believe it. […] I was really surprised, amazed, moved to see that, said the minister in an interview, Friday afternoon.
When we see and hear his comments from the past, we see that [Kris Austin] is not an ally of New Brunswick francophones, she adds. We need to monitor this situation closely.
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Kris Austin's appointment to the OLA review committee is an affront to Francophones & New Brunswick Acadians.
We have been waiting for this review for 1 year now. This appointment sends a clear signal — bilingualism is not a priority for Mr. Higgs.
— Ginette Petitpas Taylor (@GinettePT) November 4, 2022
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The two French-speaking ministers who sit on the committee also reacted to the appointment of Kris Austin, on Friday evening.
The Minister Daniel Allain stated, in a written statement, that he took this opportunity [to sit on the committee] to ensure that the Francophone perspective is well represented and that it is well recognized by all .
“In politics, we work with people who have different experiences and ideas. »
— Daniel Allain, Minister of Local Government of NB
Daniel Allain, Minister of Local Government and Local Governance Reform, on September 21, 2022 in Fredericton
His colleague, Minister Réjean Savoie, wrote that he was happy to be part of the committee to share his experience and to discuss the recommendations of the report with all [his] colleagues.
The review of the Official Languages Act is long overdue. In its Speech from the Throne, the government promised to focus on it, but it has already been ten months since Commissioners Yvette Finn and John McLaughlin presented their final report on the review of the law.
Blaine Higgs has indicated that he will respond by the end of the year.
Constitutionalist and specialist in official languages, Michel Doucet, reacts to the appointment of Kris Austin to the committee on official languages.
With information from Nicolas Steinbach, Alix Villeneuve and Michel Corriveau