FREDERICTON - Just ahead of National Acadian Day, the Green Caucus met with the Société de l'Acadie du N.-B. (SANB) as they arrived in Fredericton to meet political leaders today.
At the end of the meeting, Green Party leader David Coon stated that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure equality between the province's two linguistic communities.
SANB supports the Green’s proposal to establish a Standing Committee on Official Languages, which is currently being considered by a committee of the Legislature.
"Concrete action must be taken to achieve real equality. We can't expect it to happen effortlessly. Of course, the Official Languages Act will be up for review shortly and we will make sure that it is done in public and on time," said Coon.
“I was also pleased to learn that SANB is strongly focused on improving the way New Brunswick manages immigration, because as I have repeatedly said, we need the autonomy to ensure we can keep international students and attract immigrants to meet our unique needs, including the need for francophone immigration. Leaving this up to Ottawa is not acceptable,” said Coon.
The MLA for Kent North, Kevin Arseneau, points out that vigilance is always required when it comes to ensuring equality between the province’s two linguistic communities.
"Since my arrival at the Legislative Assembly, I have realized how we are still far from the goal set 50 years ago when the Official Languages Act was adopted,” said Arseneau. “Achieving real equality and the development of our Acadian regions is the fight of a lifetime for me. Protecting our rights is certainly one of my top priorities as a Francophone MLA.”
Coon said meeting with the SANB ahead of National Acadian Day should become a tradition to take stock of the many priority issues of New Brunswick's Acadian community.
New Brunswickers have been served well by a minority government during the pandemic. The diversity of voices on the COVID-19 Cabinet Committee have led to good decisions that have effectively protected New Brunswickers from the awful consequences of COVID-19 experienced in other parts of Canada and around the world.
We look forward to securing a commitment from Premier Higgs to collaborate on the development of provincial budgets and throne speeches, so they secure the confidence of the house in order to avoid triggering a disruptive election.
NB Green Party Leader
MLA for Fredericton South
FREDERICTON – Green Party Leader and MLA for Fredericton-South David Coon and Green Education Critic and MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar Megan Mitton are calling for the provincial government to provide better supports for students after all four public universities in New Brunswick announced tuition increases for the upcoming school year.
“Students are struggling to get by during the pandemic,” says Coon. “Many do not have summer jobs and are feeling anxious about how they will afford to pay for their tuition on top of all of the other expenses that go with attending university this fall. Some have signed leases they cannot get out of now that they don’t need to be on campus with teaching moving on-line.”
Last week Mount Allison University announced a 4.5 percent increase in tuition fees for the coming school year, while the Université de Moncton has announced a 7.5 percent increase. The University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University are planning on increasing tuition fees by 2 percent. Meanwhile, 20 percent of New Brunswick youth are unemployed according to Statistics Canada data released on Friday.
“This is creating another obstacle for students at a time when they are experiencing a lot of uncertainty about what the fall semester will look like,” said Megan Mitton, MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar and Green Education Critic. “I am particularly worried about students who face the most barriers to accessing post-secondary education, and for international students, who have been ignored during the pandemic. It’s time for the provincial government to step up and support students by offsetting these tuition increases.”
FREDERICTON – Today, Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mittons’s bill, An Act to Amend the Education Act was passed through to third reading by the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Economic Policy. The bill would enshrine the teaching of Indigenous languages in New Brunswick’s public education curriculum.
“Indigenous languages have been systematically attacked for generations in the residential school system and subsequently ignored in public schools, so it’s time to begin dismantling the systemic racism that is responsible for this loss of language,” said Mitton. “I would like to thank all members of the committee for ensuring this bill moved forward.”
The committee also adopted an amendment proposed by the Education Minister to update the language of this section of the Education Act, to include all Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati children.
“I’d also like to thank the Education Minister for taking this opportunity to put forward an amendment to update the language of the Education Act,” said Mitton. “This shows what we can achieve when we work together as legislators.”
Despite a united call by 15 chiefs from the Wolastoqey, Mi’kmaq, and Pestomuhkati First Nations in New Brunswick for a public inquiry into systemic discrimination against Indigenous people within the justice system at yesterday’s meeting in Fredericton, Premier Blaine Higgs refused to commit.
“The Premier has missed a tremendous opportunity to start down the road to reconciliation and begin to build a respectful relationship with First Nations by establishing a Commission of Inquiry into systemic racism against Indigenous people,” said Green Party leader David Coon. “I can’t believe the Premier brushed off the Chiefs’ detailed proposal in the wake of the police killings of Chanel Moore and Rodney Levi, and at a time when New Brunswickers overwhelmingly want him to help make things right between our peoples.”
The Green Party leader spoke to a number of the Chiefs after the meeting who had been looking for a glimmer of hope that justice might be done, and like so many before him, Higgs snuffed it out.
“I am calling on the Premier to break the centuries-old pattern of paternalism and establish the public inquiry the Chiefs are requesting. They want an interim report within 60 days of the establishment of an inquiry to recommend measures aimed at addressing systemic discrimination against Indigenous people in New Brunswick that can be implemented immediately. I am prepared to help him to make this inquiry happen,” said Coon.
Green Party Leader’s Statement
The Wolastoqey Chiefs first called for public inquiry into systemic racism in New Brunswick’s police and justice systems on June 6, which I and my colleagues supported. Chiefs from all three First Nations in New Brunswick are scheduled to meet with the Premier tomorrow, July 9th to present their terms-of-reference for a public inquiry.
Premier Higgs has been reluctant to support such an inquiry, favouring a task force to sort through relevant recommendations from national inquiries that have never been implemented. However, we need a made-in-New Brunswick public inquiry into New Brunswick’s policing and justice systems in order to reveal how they are biased against Indigenous people here at home, so that action can be taken to change the system now.
The inquiry must be Indigenous-led, and as recommended by the Wolastoqey Grand Council, include the participation of Wabanaki Grandmothers in discussions about the reform of our police and justice systems.
The inquiry will hold a mirror up to our policing and justice systems so that all New Brunswickers see society reflected back to us the way Indigenous people experience it.
Premier Higgs has the opportunity to bring about meaningful change for Indigenous people in New Brunswick, so I ask that he abandon his plan to create a task force to study the national recommendations of Canadian inquiries and launch the public inquiry that is needed.
Successive governments have reviewed recommendations from past national enquiries without acting on any of them. A made-in-New Brunswick inquiry to tackle systemic racism in our province’s institutions is essential for change to happen, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for all of us whose ancestors have settled here over the past 400 years.
New Brunswick Green Party Leader
MLA for Fredericton-South
FREDERICTON – An inquiry into systemic anti-indigenous racism in our policing and justice systems would hold a mirror up to our society, and will be startling for many New Brunswickers, according to Green Party leader and MLA for Fredericton South David Coon. All the more important, according to Coon, is that we see our society reflected back to us the way indigenous people experience it.
“A made-in-New Brunswick public inquiry is essential, not to point out that there are people in society who hold hateful views of indigenous people, but to reveal how the system itself is biased against indigenous people so that action can be taken to change the system,” said Green Party leader David Coon. “That is why First Nation Chiefs are asking for a pubic inquiry, that is indigenous-led, with a tight timeframe to report back with specific actions that are ready to implement to end systemic racism. That is why my party and I support the Chiefs’ insistence on a public inquiry.”
The Wolastoqey Chiefs first called for public inquiry into systemic racism in New Brunswick’s police and justice systems on June 6, citing its necessity to restore trust. Chiefs from all three First Nations in New Brunswick are scheduled to meet with the Premier on July 8th.
“Premier Higgs has the opportunity to bring about meaningful change for indigenous people in New Brunswick, so I ask that he abandon his plan to create task force to study the national recommendations of Canadian inquiries, and launch the public inquiry that is needed,” said Coon. “There are plenty of smart people in the public service that can bring forward pertinent recommendations from past national enquiries to be implemented, but we need a made-in-New Brunswick inquiry to tackle systemic racism in New Brunswick.”
FREDERICTON – The Green Caucus supports effective vaccination programs. Green MLAs trust the science behind vaccines, their effectiveness in preventing disease, and believe that everyone should get vaccinated if they can.
The Green Caucus has abstained from voting on Bill-11, An Act Respecting Proof of Immunization. The bill implements a blanket removal of the parental exemption, other than for medical reasons, from the province’s vaccination law.
“Our caucus believes that it should be the Chief Medical Officer of Health who suspends the parental exemption, should she deem it necessary for public health purposes, not this politically motivated bill,” said Green Party leader David Coon.
Coon proposed three amendments to Bill 11. These included giving the Chief Medical Officer of Health the authority to suspend the parental exemption, requiring approval of the Minister of Health to enable the Minister of Education to make decisions regarding vaccination policies in schools, and mandating New Brunswick’s top doctor to provide education about vaccinations to parents. All were defeated at Committee stage causing the Green MLAs to abstain from the final vote.
“The Education Minister told the Legislative committee studying the bill, that only 1% of parents have used the available exemptions from mandatory vaccinations, and that current high rates of vaccination are providing the required herd immunity in our schools,” said Coon. “There simply is no public health rationale, at this time, to deny quality public education to the handful of children whose parents have used the exemption.”
FREDERICTON – Green Party Leader and MLA for Fredericton-South, David Coon, tabled a motion today urging the government to promote and develop jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transportation.
“We can’t self-isolate from the climate crisis as we are during this pandemic,” said Coon. “The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a unique opportunity to make ground-breaking changes in our economy, so now is the time to jump-start a New Brunswick economy that is sustainable, resilient, and puts people to work in well-paying jobs.”
The motion tabled by Coon has three main objectives:
- Create an agency that would have the mandate to promote and develop jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transportation;
- Update the renewable energy portfolio requirements under the regulations to the Electricity Act to increase the target to 80% renewable energy on the grid by 2030 and 100% renewable energy on the grid by 2050;
- Reduce barriers to generating green energy by allowing municipalities and First Nations to directly purchase small-scale, New Brunswick-based renewable energy for use in their government operations.
“The climate crisis is an energy crisis, so any meaningful solution needs to put renewable energy and energy efficiency at the front and centre of our economy,” said Coon. “By providing good job opportunities in the renewables sector, setting strong renewable energy targets and allowing for greater use of locally-based, small-scale renewable energy, we would be putting our province on the path to having a 21st century economy.”
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This issue constitutes the eighth principle of the Green Caucus framework for a just recovery from COVID-19: “Create a resilient economy in a time of climate crisis”.
Green Party Education Critic Tables Bill to Include the Teaching of Indigenous Languages in NB Schools
Fredericton – Green Party MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar and education critic, Megan Mitton, tabled a bill to amend the Education Act to include indigenous languages in the public education curriculum.
“Systemic racism goes beyond policing. Indigenous languages have been systematically attacked for generations in the residential school systems, and then they were ignored in the public-school system,” says Mitton. “We are at the point of losing indigenous languages here in NB, there are fewer than 100 fluent, life-long Wolastoqey speakers and about 2000 Mi’kmaq speakers left in the province.”
The change would add the word language to Paragraph 7(b) of the Education Act, so that the line would read:
“The Minister shall prescribe or approve programs and services which foster an understanding of aboriginal history, language, and culture among all pupils.”
“In 2017 David Coon passed a bill with all-party support to ensure that indigenous history and culture is part of our school curriculum and this is the next logical step,” said Mitton. “If we are taking reconciliation and right relations with First Nations seriously, then working diligently to preserve language, which is an integral part of culture, is essential.”