Planned education reforms appear to have stirred a hornet’s nest, if a public consultation meeting in downtown Moncton is any indication.
On Thursday night, the Department of Education held a public meeting at the Delta Beauséjour Hotel over the planned changes to French-language education for anglophone students in New Brunswick.
Listen to the report that aired on CHMA on Jan. 23:
Around 6:30 p.m., when the session was slated to begin, there were still dozens of people waiting in a line that extended from the conference room down the staircase to the lobby. When the conference room reached capacity, workers removed wall panels to add extra space for more tables and chairs. More than 300 people reportedly attended.
Things got rowdy when the session finally got started, about 45 minutes later than planned, as the overflow crowd heckled Minister of Education Bill Hogan and deputy minister John McLaughlin.
Hogan even threatened to shut down the event, but attendees appeared to call his bluff as they began making speeches at mics positioned in the back of the room.
It was a change of plans for organizers. The consultation was supposed to be a World Café, a method that involves small groups discussing an issue, before delegates present the main points to the larger crowd.
But participants angry about the planned changes wouldn’t cooperate with a frustrated Minister of Education.
Speeches continued until around 9:45 p.m., with some participants breaking into tears as they appealed for the government to reconsider its planned reforms. The event was scheduled to end at 8:30 p.m.
On Friday, the education reforms also came up during a legislative committee hearing, with deputy minister McLaughlin telling MLAs the plans aren’t set in stone.
Tory MLA Andrea Anderson-Mason also broke ranks with her party at the committee hearing, saying the province should pause the reforms.
The consultation tour continues with sessions on Tuesday in Saint John and Wednesday in Fredericton, followed by two online sessions the next week. Registration is required for the virtual sessions.
The provincial government has proposed to scrap the province’s French Immersion and English prime systems, to establish a universal program where all students learn half in English and half in French starting from kindergarten. The plan is set to launch in September for kindergarten and grade one students.
David Gordon Koch, CHMA, Local Journalism Initiative.
David Gordon Koch is a reporter for CHMA and the NB Media Co-op’s part-time manager. This reporting was made possible by CHMA in Sackville, with funding from the Local Journalism Initiative and CHMA’s local community partners. Please consider supporting community radio by donating to our friends at CHMA.