The following Letter to the Editor, signed by Ivan Normandeau, AMBM President, appeared today in the pages of the newspaper La Liberté, this Wednesday, February 10, 2021:

Madam Editor,

In her excellent February 3 article, Des répercussions craintes sur les services en français au rural, your journalist Ophélie Doireau reported on the imminent closure of 21 agricultural service centers in rural areas, two of which are designated bilingual and one of which has bilingual positions.

This decision by the Province of Manitoba is unacceptable and inconceivable.

Inadmissible because :

  • it goes against the very foundations and principles of The Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act adopted unanimously by this government in June 2016;
  • it represents a significant historical setback to our language rights;
  • it is unilateral and arbitrary, not being the result of any public consultation or process;
  • it is inconsistent with an important collective movement currently underway to increase the availability of public and community services in both official languages throughout the province.

Inconceivable because :

  • we have difficulty understanding how the Province will manage to implement a new mode of service delivery that favours the virtual and telephone, given the immense challenges surrounding connectivity (Internet and cellular) in rural areas;

Our municipalities and farmers are convinced that instead of “improving the customer experience”, this new mode of service delivery will certainly reduce access to agricultural services in both official languages throughout the province.

For all these reasons, on January 28, 2021, our Board of Directors passed a resolution asking “the Government of Manitoba to reconsider its decision made public on January 6, 2021, and maintain the two designated bilingual Agricultural Service Centres in Saint-Pierre-Jolys and Somerset, as well as the Agricultural Service Centre in Sainte-Rose-du-Lac which includes designated bilingual positions.” This resolution also states that “pursuant to The Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act and its principles of Progress and Recognition, the AMBM requests that the Government of Manitoba designate all Agricultural Service Centers in the province as bilingual.”

The following day, this resolution was officially communicated to the Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development, the Honourable Blaine Pedersen. The full text of the letter is available in the News section of our website.

The AMBM has an important history of successful collaborations with the Province of Manitoba. In particular, for many years, the Province of Manitoba has financially supported the AMBM’s provision of translation services. These services are crucial to support and increase the delivery of municipal services in both official languages for the benefit of Manitoba’s Official Language Minority Communities (OLMCs).

We are committed to motivating and maintaining a constructive and open dialogue with the Province. It is our hope, based on a mutual trust that has been built over many years, that together we will find win-win solutions for Manitoba’s farmers, who represent one of our province’s greatest assets and the very foundation of our economic fabric.

Ivan Normandeau
Association of Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities
February 5, 2021

Letter originally published in French.

For more information: Justin Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, 204-289-4077, [email protected].

Inadmissible and inconceivable closures