Let me first wish you the happiest of holidays and the brightest and most prosperous New Year.
I’m sure you find it odd to be receiving holiday wishes from a New Orleans lawyer. Truthfully, I have only visited your fair Province once, and while I find it positively charming and would return in a heartbeat, I cannot call myself even an adopted Albertan.
But I am writing to you in solidarity with francophone Albertans across the province, especially in the legal community and the citizens they serve. In June of this year, I had the distinct honor of giving the keynote address at the annual banquet of the Association des Juristes d’Expression Française de l’Alberta, where I discussed the similarities and differences of political participation and access to justice in Louisiana and Alberta. I met a vibrant group of jurists who are committed every day to improving the lives of Alberta’s francophone population.
Louisiana and Alberta are similar in the area of language rights. We both have small but vocal francophone minorities, many of whom are native French speakers. We both grant some language rights to French speakers short of what’s needed for full integration. And we both understand the struggles of providing services in the midst of budget constraints and problems with public perception.
But you have so many advantages that Louisiana doesn’t have. You have French as an official language of the Canadian government, providing a basis for expansion into provincial services. You have other provinces with language rights laws that can serve as models for your own endeavors. You have existing legal organizations like the AJEFA who can provide the assistance needed to fully achieve language integration. You are on the cusp of giving all your citizens the right to express themselves in the political and judicial processes in the language with which they identify. You just need to take that step.
Sadly, in Louisiana, we have been fighting for many aspects of language rights for generations. While I am proud to say we do have a State French Language Services Law, we have a long way to go. Hopefully, my generation will continue the fight.
I’ve attached a cartoon that was provided to me by Maître Gérard Lévesque that I hope you find both amusing and alarming given the plight of francophone Albertans up until now. I’m told you yourself are bilingual and that you understand the difficulties facing this community. I hope your government will work for them to cure this injustice. For what it’s worth, you have my full support, and I stand ready to assist you in whatever efforts you may need.
Et comme vous êtes bilingue, il me fait plaisir de vous transmettre le lien Internet suivant vers le texte de l’allocution que j’ai prononcée à Edmonton le 13 juin 2014. À mon avis, l’Alberta pourrait s’inspirer de quelques initiatives de la Louisiane pour faire progresser le statut de la langue française.
Joyeuses Fêtes !
Evan J. Bergeron
Nouvelle Orléans, Louisiane
Evan J. Bergeron
Counselor at Law
755 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
Main (504) 581-5141
Fax (504) 566-4050