5 December 2018

In Canada’s only officially bilingual province, Inclusive Excellence and Engaged Leadership - the central themes of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation’s Future Forums - sometimes speak to questions involving both language and identity.

As the Future Forums visited New Brunswick for consultations in Fredericton and Moncton, participants highlighted language and Indigenous inclusion as pressing issues in the province.

In a conference room at the University of New Brunswick, participants, many of whom were academics, considered the themes from the province’s unique perspective.

Catherine Holtmann is a professor at UNB and Director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research. Holtmann, the host of the consultation, said that less populous regions have a distinct advantage when it comes to conversations about inclusion and finding new ways to work together: people know one another.

“The circles are small enough that you can talk to people who have power and influence in different sectors of society, because you meet them on a regular basis,” Holtmann said. “That’s both a challenge and an opportunity.”

The challenge is that there is a smaller pool of people to draw upon. The opportunity is that people can – and do – get to know one another and get involved in ways that may not happen in larger centres.

That participatory approach increasingly means different communities are invited to the table.

Amanda Reid-Rogers is the newly appointed Piluwitahasuwin (Assistant Vice-President Indigenous Engagement) at the University of New Brunswick.

“It’s not as though I have numbers behind me to make my voice louder,” she said, noting that Indigenous communities represent about five percent of the population in the province.

“There have to be people who are willing to step aside and let an indigenous person speak,” she said. Within the academic context, that is happening more and more.

At the Université de Moncton, the conversation continued among a different and diverse group.  Among them was Bernard Richard, a 2012 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Mentor. He serves as a senior advisor at the Mi'gmaq Child and Family Services of New Brunswick Inc., working with several Indigenous communities in the province.

Richard said in spite of New Brunswick’s official bilingualism, language is sometimes viewed as an obstacle to inclusive discussions.

“Some people have the sense that official bilingualism can prevent other New Brunswickers from realizing their dreams,” he said, noting this sentiment re-emerged during the recent provincial election campaign.

"We are now asking questions. We need to speak, to dialogue, and to listen a little more.”

There are grassroots organizations committed to bringing people together for such discussions around inclusion and social cohesion. Nadine Duguay-Lemay is the CEO of Dialogue NB.

"When people really feel listened to, when they feel valued, and when they feel connected, they have a sense of belonging,"  she said. "If we all worked on that - every organisation, every school, every company - imagine the impact that could have."