Dialogue NB’s New CEO Says Social Cohesion Is Key To Province’s Progress

Dialogue NB CEO Nadine Duguay-Lemay. Image: submitted

Dialogue New Brunswick/Noveau-Brunswick, a not-for-profit organization that aims to foster good relations between French and English speakers, recently appointed Nadine Duguay-Lemay as CEO.

A native of Tracadie-Sheila, Duguay-Lemay has lived in various cities in New Brunswick, as well as in Alberta, Costa Rica, and India. She graduated from Université de Moncton and NBCC, and was a participant at the 2015 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.

She also managed 21 Inc. and founded various community organizations. Most recently, she served as the marketing director of a major financial institution.

Huddle sat down with her to find out how she plans to play a role in the province’s economic development:

What does the current landscape on bilingualism look like in the province?

The landscape shows basically that there was a drop in support for bilingualism. And the media have talked about rising tensions between the [French-speaking and English-speaking] communities. I’ve ordered a new study from Chantal Losier at Viminion to be done for a new landscape by the end of March.

Actually, we’re [also] conducting a study jointly with Moncton to look at the economic impact that Moncton has seen from stating that it’s a bilingual city. I also recently met with Amanda Hachey [Director of social lab NouLAB] and we talked about doing a pilot lab on languages. We’re in the exploratory phase.

And I had a great conversation with Mathieu Wade, a sociologist at Universite de Moncton, last week, about how much bilingualism is actually required and where should we start? When I taught French in Miramichi at my own language institute years ago, the [learners] just wanted to have functional French to be able to greet their clients. That’s where I want to change the conversation. I want everybody to think it’s beautiful to learn two, three languages. I don’t wanna impose it on anybody, but I hope they would see it as an economic advantage.

How do you see Dialogue NB’s work creating an impact?

I look at it from a social cohesion viewpoint. Social cohesion is defined as the willingness of citizens to work together towards prosperity and survival. To me, New Brunswick is composed of many ethnic groups. It’s French-speaking and English-speaking. There are First Nations, there are newcomers, so we might want to look at it from an inclusive viewpoint. To me, it’s New Brunswick as a whole.

I think people misunderstand each other. Somebody who lives in Plaster Rock doesn’t have the same reality as somebody who lives in Caraquet. And this is where I see Dialogue [NB] play a big role. How can we bring those two realities together at the table and how can we actually foster common ground.

What’s your vision for the organization?

My vision is to have New Brunswick as this wonderful place in the world where people will look at it and say, ‘I can go to New Brunswick and learn French and English.’ If there are barriers for people to accomplish this, that’s what we need to address. And then maybe people can learn Mi’kmaq, and other languages on top of that. Maybe we can compete with Europe, where many languages are spoken.

Does it mean we should have a marketing campaign? That’s actually where I want to spend a lot of our efforts in the next year, just preparing the landscape and communicating what do we do, and voice the gaps loud and clear to any sector.

Although there are language training courses available, they’re often expensive. What are some of the resources that could be available to give an opportunity for everybody to learn the other language?

This is one of the gaps that we’re talking about that’s lagging in the community. If English-speaking New Brunswickers feel they don’t have access to that education, what can we do about that? It’s not in my mandate to deliver French language training, but it’s certainly in our mandate to state there is lagging here and to say to the government, to the public and private sector, to offer those courses.

What can the private sector do to help with this dialogue?

Tons. For instance, language training is huge. If it’s a matter of cost, then go to your public sector and say, let’s partner up and let’s do this.

Another way is just to be proud of offering different languages. A great example is David Michaud, a branch manager at National Bank. Seven languages are spoken in his branch on Main Street [in Moncton] and he wears that proudly.

You most recently worked in the private sector. What brought you back to the community sector?

I loved my time in a financial institution, and I think every New Brunswicker should live that big corporate experience. But I did miss the community impact. I look at the stats right now in New Brunswick and I don’t wanna be a bystander.  I wanna be part of the solution. I might get critiqued on because this is not an easy file. But I’d rather break the wall and have concrete discussions than remaining status quo. Status quo to me is not a possibility.

What will you bring to the table at Dialogue NB?

I think there’s a lack right now of having subject matter experts talking about our reality in New Brunswick. I think we can be that platform that brings content on our website in both languages so all populations have access to informed content.

The other thing is to foster youth exchanges with newcomers. We already have programs where we pair up a French-speaking class and an English-speaking class across the province. They correspond each year and then they meet at the end of the year. Maybe we can enhance that program. I would love to have the newcomers’ and First Nations’ voices at the table.

We also need champions across New Brunswick who see speaking various languages as good for their clientele.

What are some challenges that you’re seeing?

I have a few but they’re all opportunities for me. The first one is I need to modernize operations and have a set up that’s virtual. What I aspire is that I would have a team across New Brunswick.

The second is, I’m really anxious to get that data that I’ve ordered for the end of March because that would give us evidence-based information as to what’s the actual landscape. That’s gonna give us our positioning.

This interview has been shortened and condensed for clarity