Image credit: Government of Canada,
Department of Justice
SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Ottawa
As the only officially bilingual province in Canada, New Brunswick holds a unique position regarding history education and collaborative curriculum development. In this province, it is as if we stand between two linguistic divides—with one foot firmly planted in English-speaking Canada, and the other confidently placed within a French-speaking world. This is because, unlike other provinces and territories in Canada, New Brunswick maintains two distinct education systems that are separate and equal. This distinction is not just a privilege, but a right: a right that is firmly embedded within our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As indicated in section 16.1 of the 1982 Constitutional Act of Canada:
(1) The English linguistic community and the French linguistic community in New Brunswick have equality of status and equal rights and privileges, including the right to distinct educational institutions and such distinct cultural institutions as are necessary for the preservation and promotion of those communities.
2) The role of the legislature and government of New Brunswick to preserve and promote the status, rights and privileges referred to subsection (1) is affirmed.In this sense, education and cultural identity operate hand-in-hand. For each linguistic group, school is not simply about “making the grade,” it is about preserving and promoting social responsibility to two linguistic communities. This educational philosophy is supported by the Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET), as well as the Council of Education Ministers of Canada (CEMC). More specifically, the Pan-Canadian French as a First Language Project (2002, 2012) of CEMC clearly articulates this belief. It recognizes that language is not just a communication tool, but also a thinking, learning, and identity-building tool (CEMC, 2002, p. 3).
How such dynamics play out within New Brunswick’s social studies curriculum, is through respect for regionalism and diversity. Regionalism, in that New Brunswick joins with like-minded provinces to share curriculum resources; and diversity, in that the province’s two curriculum narratives reflect distinctions within New Brunswick’s linguistic communities.