Amalgamation triggers linguistic constitutional challenge
Previously published at www.cmaj.ca bilingual institutions and it’s always a
situation where the minority gets the
rancophone organizations are short end of the stick. … What we want
rallying around an Acadian is real equality.”
group that has mounted a legal The New Brunswick government,
challenge to New Brunswick’s deci- however, insists the changes still provide
sion to whittle its eight regional health both communities with sufficient control
authorities to two. over their health care institutions.
The groups charge that the amalga- For example, hospitals that previ-
mation infringes on the constitutional ously operated in French, like Monc-
right of linguistic minorities to have ton’s Dr. Georges-L. Dumont Regional
separate and equal institutions. Hospital — the flagship of francophone
The showdown was triggered by a health care in the province — can con-
March 2008 decision by the Liberal tinue to do so.
government to combine four health dis- As well, health authority board
tricts that covered largely francophone meetings will be conducted in each dis-
regions, primarily in the province’s trict’s majority language (English for
north, into a body called “Regional “We have the right to run our own region B and French for region A).
institutions in parallel with those in the
Health Authority A.” The four health But the two regional health authori-
majority,” says former Supreme Court
authorities encompassing the mainly of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache.
ties will not be defined primarily along
English area of the province, largely in linguistic lines, says Bernard Thériault,
the south, were reconfigured under chief of staff for Graham. “We won’t
“Regional Health Authority B.” According to Bastarache, both the have separate French and English med-
Premier Shawn Graham’s govern- Canadian Constitution and New ical systems,” he says. “We’ll have one
ment said the move would save mil- Brunswick law guarantee the equality system in New Brunswick.”
lions of dollars and drastically improve of the anglophone and francophone lan- “The first mandate of Regional
health care. It also claimed the overhaul guage communities, as well as their Health Authority A is not to serve the
was needed to improve cooperation right to “homogeneous” institutions. francophone community — it’s to serve
between the regions, which were often The group essentially