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New Brunswick is often presented as the poster child of Canadian bilingualism and linguistic harmony. It’s the only officially bilingual province and its demolinguistic makeup is unique in the country. While francophones represent no more than 4 per cent in the rest of the provinces outside Quebec, they make up a third of New Brunswick’s population. However, the commonplace idea that New Brunswick is an oasis of linguistic harmony conveniently ignores the palpable frustrations and tensions that exist within both linguistic communities and the complex issue of linguistic coexistence.
In 2015, an online petition calling for abolition of linguistic duality and official bilingualism gathered more than 10,000 signatures. That same year, the CBC announced it would put to an end to anonymous comments on its website after Acadians complained about the overtly racist comments that accompanied most language-related articles. In 2016, the proposition to rename a park and a court in Moncton in honour of two Acadians – a poet and an architect – was met with widespread opposition. These two people, opponents argued, didn’t represent their community – didn’t share their identity. Though Acadians make up a third of the population and have been present in the city since its foundation, 95 per cent of Moncton’s street names are in English.
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