The federal government opened a national centre in Dieppe, N.B., Wednesday, with a goal to increase francophone immigration.
The federal centre will conduct studies and promote efforts to attract francophone immigrants to to communities like Moncton that have a need for a bilingual workforce.
“It’s also an important way to ensure that the demographic importance of the francophone community in New Brunswick is not diluted by our collective effort to bring more new Canadians to our great province,” Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Dominic LeBlanc said at a press conference on Thursday.
The centre will employ roughly 30 full-time employees at the Dieppe office.
The federal government hopes to reach a target of 4.4 per cent francophone immigration outside Quebec by 2023.
Official Languages Minister and federal Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe MLA Ginette Petitpas-Taylor told the crowd in French that: “The last few weeks have reminded us at what point the official languages and the preservation of our beautiful French language is a constant battle.”
She was referring to the recent controversies surrounding bilingualism in New Brunswick, such as Premier Blaine Higgs’ decision to add Kris Austin to a committee that will review the province’s Official Languages Act.
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Liberal MLAs Rob McKee, who represents Moncton-Centre, and Robert Gauvin, who represents Shediac Bay-Dieppe, were the only provincial officials who attended the announcement.
SANB president Alexandre Cédric Doucet said he was troubled by the absence of provincial ministers at the announcement.
“That’s the question that everybody has on their lips today, and I think it’s very, very unfortunate that the province isn’t here today,” he said in an interview.
Gauvin, who is a former PC MLA who crossed the floor in 2020, said the absence of provincial ministers sent a clear message.
“It says a lot doesn’t it? Immigration is important for New Brunswick as we evolve as a province and as a country. The signal that was sent by absence says that francophone immigration is not important,” he said.