By Tina Comeau
The Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FANE) intends to immediately begin legal action against the government of Nova Scotia over the elimination of the protected Acadian ridings of Argyle, Clare and Richmond should a bill establishing new electoral boundaries be approved in the House later this week.
The bill is expected to pass given the NDP-majority government, even though the opposition parties have indicated they will vote against it. The vote is expected to happen Thursday.
“Immediately following the adoption of a law abolishing the protected Acadian ridings of Clare, Argyle and Richmond, the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FANE) will file a notice to the Crown regarding legal action against the government of Nova Scotia,” the federation said in a media release on Tuesday, Dec. 4. The court challenge will be launched under the language rights provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
However, the FANE concedes that the court challenge will not be completed before the next provincial election is held.
Despite the views of the opposition members, the electoral boundaries bill passed through the Law Amendments Committee without any changes made to what was recommended in the final report of an independent electoral boundaries commission.
In the list of proposed boundaries included in the final report, the protected Acadian ridings ceased to exist and were instead merged into other constituencies to meet population thresholds that the commission was mandated to meet through a terms of reference. When the commission had proposed the status quo for the Acadian ridings months earlier, and also for an African Nova Scotia riding, the government rejected that interim report and told the commission it had to go back to the drawing board since these ridings didn’t meet the population thresholds.
Those who wanted to see the Acadian ridings remain intact worry without these protected ridings it lessens the chance of electing Acadian MLAs to the Legislature and will diminish the representation that Acadians receive.
The Fédération acadienne says it strongly regrets that the Nova Scotia Government did not take into account the strong objections of the Acadian community regarding the elimination of these ridings, which were clearly expressed to the Commission and the government at every possible opportunity. The Fédération acadienne says it feels that the new boundaries denies the principle of effective representation that had been legitimized by the Supreme Court of Canada.
That the FANE is taking its fight to court comes as no surprise. It indicated from virtually the start of the boundaries review process that it would pursue the matter in court iif the Acadian ridings were eliminated.
“The Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse feels betrayed by the NDP Government, which time and again interfered with the democratic and independent process of the electoral boundary review,” says FANE president Justin Mury. “These interventions by the government effectively silenced the voice of the Acadian people, one of the founding people of our nation, in the Legislative Assembly. As a result, we have no option other than to proceed with legal action in order to protect the hard-earned gains of the Acadian community of our province.”
The FANE was founded in 1968 and composed of29 member organizations, Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse represents the Acadian and Francophone community of the province.
In this part of the province, the riding of Argyle is being merged with parts of the constituency of Shelburne. The riding of Clare is being merged with the rest of Digby County.
Both opposition parties have indicated they will vote against the bill. Shelburne NDP MLA Sterling Belliveau has been told by his party that he can vote against the bill, since it divides the Shelburne constituency, something people in his riding of Shelburne are opposed to.