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Analysis | Making Manitoba a province « “Truly bilingual,” what does that mean?” /></p>
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<p class=At the moment, only New Brunswick is a constitutionally bilingual province, recalls François Larocque, professor of law at the University of Ottawa.

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Wab Kinew asked his Minister of Francophone Affairs to make Manitoba a “truly bilingual” province. On the eve of the parliamentary resumption, this task promises to be as vague as it is difficult.

In the mandate letter he sent to his Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage and Minister of Francophone Affairs Glen Simard, Wab Kinew gives him as third objective to recognize the founding role of the French-speaking community of our province, protect its rights and improve access to education, care and services in French so that we are truly a bilingual province. /p>

At the moment, only New Brunswick is a constitutionally bilingual province, recalls François Larocque, professor of law and holder of the Research Chair on the Canadian Francophonie in linguistic rights and issues at the University of Ottawa.

Manitoba has constitutional linguistic obligations in legislative and judicial matters, but the law in Manitoba does not guarantee the provision of services and communications in both languages, he continues.

At present, services must be offered in French only in designated bilingual regions in the province.

The vague wording of Glen Simard's mandate letter, however, leaves room for all kinds of interpretation. According to François Larocque, an optimistic reading could see, in Minister Simard's mandate, the opening [of the government] to explore the possibility of modifying the constitution to preserve the rights of Francophones.

Such an approach is relatively simple, since an agreement between Ottawa and Winnipeg would be enough. The example of New Brunswick shows us that all that would take is a bilateral agreement between the [federal] parliament and the Manitoba legislature. This is therefore a resolution made by bilateral consensus between the Manitoba Legislature and Parliament. It is article 43 of the constitutional law of 1982 which provides for this constitutional amendment formula, he continues.

For his part, Frédéric Boily, professor of political science at the Campus Saint-Jean of the University of Alberta, believes that the letter sets an ambitious objective. Making a western province a truly bilingual province, despite the historical roots of Francophones in Manitoba, who are a founding group, perhaps, but not a dominant group either, is very ambitious, he believes. he.

Furthermore, he notes that the letter mentions the objective of improving services, but he points out the fact that we are not obliged to say that Manitoba must become a truly bilingual province.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">In reality, the underlying problem behind the use of the terms truly bilingual in the mandate letter is that they can create hopes and expectations so high that we are practically certain that we will not be able to achieve them, analyzes Frédéric Boily.

I don't think that's really realistic in a 4 year term. If we really wanted to achieve this objective, we would have to give ourselves a longer time horizon because we cannot change a dynamic that has been established for decades in just one mandate.

A quote from Frédéric Boily, professor of political science at the Campus Saint-Jean of the University of Alberta

This results in a strong political risk for the new New Democratic government of causing disappointment and discontent among some voters. This is something that can turn against the government when the next election comes, warns Mr. Boily. It is a heavy responsibility [which rests] on the shoulders of the minister.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, the new Minister of Francophone Affairs, Glen Simard, plays it safe when it comes to specifying what the order indicated in his mandate letter means.

For him, the essential element is the offer of service in both official languages: it is a question, [whether one is] English-speaking or French-speaking, [of being able to] find the services [governments that we] need in French, he says.

But when asked whether making Manitoba a truly bilingual province involves going further and potentially changing the Canadian constitution, he states laconically: At this moment, I can't say anything [about] that.

As for the Société de la francophonie manitobaine, we are not moving towards such a request. Its vice-president, Derek Bentley, sees in the government's desire to make Manitoba a truly bilingual province an incentive to dream of where we want to be in 5 years, in 10 years, in 20 years and to start putting things in place [which are not just] temporary but which are also protected.

The government could give some answers as to its intentions towards the Francophonie in its first speech from the Throne, which will be delivered on Tuesday.

With information from Mario De Ciccio

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