Big­gar needs to apol­o­gize, re­sign

Op­po­si­tion par­ties crit­i­cal of trans­porta­tion min­is­ter’s re­sponse to French email

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY TONY DAVIS Tony.Davis@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/T0nyDavis

P.E.I.’s Green Party is call­ing on Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Paula Big­gar to re­sign and apol­o­gize to the Is­land’s fran­co­phone com­mu­nity fol­low­ing an email ex­change be­tween the Lib­eral cabi­net min­is­ter and a con­stituent on Wed­nes­day.

“Yes­ter­day a screen­shot was shared on so­cial me­dia of an email sent by Paula Big­gar, min­is­ter of trans­porta­tion, in­fra­struc­ture and en­ergy and min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for the Sta­tus of Women, to an Is­land mother who wrote to the min­is­ter con­cern­ing ren­o­va­tions for Evan­ge­line School,” Nathan Hood, a Green party spokesman, said in an email to The Guardian.

The screen shot was shared by Mélanie Gal­lant, who sent an email in French to Big­gar, sup­port­ing ren­o­va­tions for Evan­ge­line School in Welling­ton.

Big­gar’s re­sponse, ac­cord­ing to the screen­shot, was curt: “I don’t speak French.”

“This is a clear vi­o­la­tion of Prince Ed­ward Is­land’s French Lan­guage Ser­vices Act and in­di­cates a shock­ing dis­re­spect for the Is­land’s fran­co­phone com­mu­nity and their clearly es­tab­lished lan­guage rights un­der the Cana­dian Con­sti­tu­tion,” Hood added.

Gal­lant, who sent the email to Big­gar and posted her re­sponse on Face­book, did not wish to speak to The Guardian about the cor­re­spon­dence with the MLA.

Big­gar is­sued a state­ment to The Guardian, which read, in part: “Gov­ern­ment and the com­mu­nity share a com­mon goal – to pro­mote and to con­trib­ute to the vi­tal­ity of the French lan­guage and of its com­mu­nity.”

“This is a clear vi­o­la­tion of Prince Ed­ward Is­land’s French Lan­guage Ser­vices Act and in­di­cates a shock­ing dis­re­spect for the Is­land’s fran­co­phone com­mu­nity and their clearly es­tab­lished lan­guage rights un­der the Cana­dian Con­sti­tu­tion.” Nathan Hood

The state­ment added Big­gar has since re­sponded to Gal­lant, in­form­ing her that her let­ter has been for­warded to the min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion.

“Gov­ern­ment thanks Madame Gal­lant for send­ing the let­ters of sup­port for the Evan­ge­line School project. Min­is­ter Big­gar and other gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials will be reach­ing out to her to see if she would like to ar­range a meet­ing,” the state­ment reads.

PC MLA Brad Trivers is the Op­po­si­tion critic for fran­co­phone af­fairs. The French Lan­guage Ser­vices Act has clear rules, which re­quire of­fi­cial cor­re­spon­dence to be replied to in the orig­i­nal lan­guage it was re­ceived in, he said.

“It was a sim­ple email, it wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily ad­dressed to her. I think it was sent to all min­is­ters, and she felt the need to re­spond. I think it reached into the core of what the fran­co­phone com­mu­nity wants on Prince Ed­ward Is­land, which is sim­ple re­spect and ac­knowl­edge­ment.”

Trivers said he wouldn’t re­spond to an email that way.

“I would re­spond in the lan­guage it was sent to me in. Even if I could not or didn’t have the re­sources to un­der­stand, I would make an at­tempt and apol­o­gize for not be­ing able to re­spond. Our goal as MLAs is to rep­re­sent all our con­sti­tutes re­gard­less of which lan­guage they speak. To do that, we have to work to un­der­stand them. It’s our job, and if you aren’t do­ing that you aren’t do­ing your job re­ally well.”

Pre­mier Wade MacLauch­lan, min­ster re­spon­si­ble for fran­co­phone af­fairs, is out of prov­ince and could not be reached for com­ment.

The Face­book post where Gal­lant high­lighted the is­sue has since been deleted.

Big­gar’s Twit­ter ac­count, which was live ear­lier in the week, also ap­pears to have been deleted.

She is no stranger to so­cial me­dia and con­tro­versy.

Last year, The Guardian re­ported Big­gar tweeted, “I don’t get mad I get even,” to a Tweet the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives de­scribed as a veiled threat.

SUB­MIT­TED IM­AGE

A Face­book screen­shot shows Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Paula Big­gar’s re­sponse to an in­quiry she re­ceived by email in French. Op­po­si­tion par­ties says Big­gar needs to apol­o­gize and re­sign.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Paula Big­gar

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