Whenever someone mentions language in Moncton, people bristle. It’s a taboo subject. Everyone’s worried that any kind of analysis will erode the many positive steps that have been taken in the past few decades to make Greater Moncton a vibrant and bi-lingual, bi-cultural place.
So it is with some trepidation that I write this blog. However, I think some of this stuff needs to be debated in the public space.
I consider myself and my family fairly typical for Greater Moncton – an Anglo with a working knowledge of French married to a fluently bilingual wife (actually trilingual) with three kids – all in (or will be) French Immersion. I work in a bilingual office and I participate in bilingual community and cultural events. I fundamentally believe that our bilingualism is a key defining attribute that benefits us in profound economic, social and cultural ways. I believe that everything should be done to protect and enhance this duality.
However, I am a little dismayed, in general, with some of the Anglos in our community. As of the 2001 Census, the average income for a mother tongue English speaking person was lower than a French speaking person for the first time ever. In addition, the percentage of university graduates is higher among the mother tongue French population. Further, the arts and cultural aspects of our community tend to be dominated by Acadians – and good for them. Finally, it seems that the majority of young entrepreneurs in our community are Acadians.
So what am I saying? I think we may be seeing somewhat of a ghettoization of the anglo community in Greater Moncton. Lower incomes, lower education levels, limited involvement in arts/culture, limited entrepreneurship.
I won’t attempt to redress all of those issues in this blog except to say that the anglos need to be as proactive in this community as the Acadians have been. We need to take a page out of their book. In addition, the Acadians should welcome this. Better education, higher incomes and a better appreciation of arts/culture will benefit the entire community.
In short, I think a few steps need to be taken:
1. We need an English language university located in the City of Moncton. I know we have ABU and Mount A down the road but by my estimates over 80% of all English kids graduate high school and leave town for university – most never come back. There is ample evidence that people who attend university in a city/town have much more likelihood of settling down there (just look at U de M which has in many ways been the driving force behind much of the innovation and entrepreneurship among the Francophone community). I am not talking about a brand new university or a 5,000 person campus. I am talking about a 800-1,000 student campus of UNB, Mt. A, Dalhousie – whatever that provides English speaking graduates with a place to attend university – an option.
2. We need to get over this myth that anglos have no artistic talent. We need to foster artistic creativity among kids and find ways to better integrate the highly successful Acadian artistic community with the anglos – without forcing everyone to speak English and all of the other ‘rot’ that people think of.
3. We need to foster entrepreneurship among our anglo young people – not singled out as such but maybe there is not as much risk taking or other attributes of an entrepreneur among anglos – we need to redress this.
4. We need more leadership – examples. I know a large number of Anglophones that embrace everything that I talk about – consider former Mayor Brian Murphy. 65% of people in Greater Moncton are Anglophones (over 1/4th of them are now fluently bilingual). Further, the majority of people that have moved into Greater Moncton over the past 15 years are anglophone – that’s right – the Acadian Peninsula exodus is real but the overall in-migration is predominately Anglophone and a small trickle of immigrants.
Greater Moncton is becoming (or is) the capital of Acadie. And that’s great. But it is in no one’s interest for our community to be a unidimensional place. We need a healthy and growing anglo community. We need more immigrants – many more immigrants. Sure, we should be a community where as many people as possible speak both French and English. Absolutely. And we should make that our passion. But let’s have a little bit broader view of the world. Let’s raise our kids bilingual – even trilingual. Let’s expose our people to a broad range of culture and ideas – we’ll all be better for it.
The rant’s over for today.