The debate over language in New Brunswick led to raised voices and accusations Wednesday in the legislature.
It came a week after a mother and her child, a student at one of the schools hosting a new French language pilot program, spoke to reporters in the legislature about how she was not receiving the same quality of French instruction as she was in French immersion .
“I was very disappointed by the stunt that the executive director of Canadian Parents for French did last week here in the gallery, using a student as a prop,” Education Minister Bill Hogan said.
Opposition parties say that the education minister should apologize to the student, 11-year-old Natasha Robichaud, and her family for the remarks.
“I was shocked by the way the minister of education attacked these students and their families for advocating for themselves,” said Megan Mitton, the New Brunswick Green Party’s education critic.
“These young women were here, these students advocating for themselves, saying they wanted access to French immersion,” Mitton said.
“They came to the legislature to do that. I’m proud of people who do that. I’m proud of them and I can’t believe the minister of education would attack them and call them a stunt and a prop,” she said.
Susan Holt, leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party, said the comments made her “feel sick.”
“I’m a parent. I have kids in school. I would like to think that New Brunswickers who express a point of view will be respected and listened to even if they’re not agreed with,” said Holt.
“So to dismiss and disparage a New Brunswicker and their child expressing a point of view is really disgusting,” she continued.
Canadian Parents for French are calling on the minister to step down over his remarks.
“This is really small of the minister to point like this,” said Chris Collins, executive director of Canadian Parents for French New Brunswick. “I think that honestly for not immediately withdrawing those comments he should be forced to resign by the premier.”
“Because it’s not a good reflection of a minister of education or a former principal,” Collins said.
The government announced Wednesday that the program replacing French immersion in the province will be announced Thursday afternoon.
The new Language Learning Program has been veiled in secrecy since Dominic Cardy resigned as education minister in October.
It’s leaving parents, teachers, and politicians anxious for the reveal.
“We’ve been waiting to see some actual evidence, some actual plans for what’s going to happen,” Mitton said.
“Hopefully there will be some details, we don’t always get a lot of details when the government makes announcements so my hopes aren’t very high.”
The education department did not provide CTV with how the data was collected to assess the French pilot program’s success.