Minister discusses benefits and myths of bilingualism29 September 2016
FREDERICTON (GNB) – Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Donald Arseneault, who is also minister responsible for official languages, discussed the benefits and myths of bilingualism at a news conference today in Fredericton.
“New Brunswickers want us to work together on their priorities of jobs, education and health care,” said Arseneault. “We are one people who can achieve so much working together. We should not allow ourselves to be divided on issues of language and culture.”
Arseneault outlined some of the benefits and positive outcomes of bilingualism:
- the bilingual workforce has been a key reason New Brunswick attracted corporations such as ExxonMobil, Xerox, IBM, FedEx, UPS, RBC, TD Insurance, Unilever and SNC-Lavalin to set up in the province;
- the bilingual workforce has played a key role in the development of customer contact centres. New Brunswick’s customer contact centre and back office industry employs more than 18,000 people and generates $1.4 billion in interprovincial and international export revenue annually;
- the head offices of organizations such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission are located in New Brunswick, in part, because of our bilingual workforce;
- New Brunswick has Canada’s second-highest concentration of translators, terminologists and interpreters in the workforce (after Quebec) with 65 registered businesses serving New Brunswick and other provinces;
- Quebec tourists visit New Brunswick in disproportionately high numbers because of our Acadian culture. A recent study showed that the accommodation and food services sectors generated $123.3 million in revenue from Quebec tourists, which, on a per capita basis, is more than double the revenue collected by those sectors in Ontario and triple the amount generated in Nova Scotia;
- a study by the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick has said that economic activity in northern New Brunswick is responsible for 12 per cent of the jobs in southern New Brunswick; and
- New Brunswick receives millions of dollars from the federal government each year to support official languages in areas such as education, immersion, training and provision of services in both official languages, culture, immigration and community infrastructure development. Our status as the only officially bilingual province has provided us with leverage in the negotiation of these beneficial partnerships with the federal government.
Arseneault also took the opportunity to address common myths surrounding bilingualism:
- Myth: official bilingualism prevents unilingual anglophones from obtaining government jobs.
The majority of civil service jobs – about 55 per cent – are open to unilingual anglophones.
- Myth: having English and French school buses costs too much.
New Brunswick's school bus expense is three per cent lower than Nova Scotia’s on a per student basis, according to the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.
- Myth: our two health authorities create duplication and cost taxpayers too much.
The health authorities represent two parts of a single system working together. They were created in 2008 by merging eight health authorities into two. Subsequently, New Brunswick has maintained one of the lowest health-care cost growth rates in the country, resulting in several hundred million dollars in avoided health-care costs.
- Myth: we don’t need English and French hospitals, we need bilingual hospitals.
All hospitals in the province must serve the public in both official languages, as set out in the Official Languages Act. A hospital may adopt an internal working language for its staff, but this does not change its obligation to serve members of the public in both English and French. Having fewer hospitals would not mean fewer sick people, fewer doctors, or fewer nurses.
“Bilingualism is a positive contributor to our social fabric and our economy,” said Arseneault. “We need to move beyond this divisive debate and realize that we are stronger together. By working toward our shared goals, New Brunswickers of all linguistic groups will be stronger.”