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Quebec speaks out about New Brunswick's 'very worrying' French immersion reforms

New Brunswick's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld New Brunswick's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
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LAVAL, Que. -

The Quebec government says it is worried about the future of the French language in New Brunswick and is looking at what actions it can take.

Quebec's minister responsible for the Canadian Francophonie today called the New Brunswick government's plan to reform French immersion in schools a very troubling sign.

Jean-Francois Roberge says he is following the situation in New Brunswick closely.

His government considers New Brunswick's Acadian minority to be struggling, but he did not specify what actions Quebec could take to help them.

New Brunswick's current immersion program offers up to 90 per cent of class time in French, while the program to be introduced in September devotes half the day to learning in French and the other half to English instruction for subjects such as math, reading and writing.

Roberge notes that he has to be careful not to meddle in the administration of another province.

"I am looking at how we can act," he said. "It's certainly very worrying when a Franco-Canadian community outside Quebec is in difficulty."

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said at a party event Thursday that he has an added responsibility as the only political leader in North America representing a francophone majority.

The New Brunswick government says the goal of its reforms is to ensure all graduates in the anglophone sector have at least a "conversational level" of French. The province prides itself on being the only officially bilingual province in Canada but has lamented how most of its anglophone graduates can't speak French.

Critics have packed public consultations held over the past week, questioning what evidence the government has on the shortcomings of the existing immersion program and demanding that the reform be scrapped.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.

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