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MD of Bonnyville emphasizing bilingualism

MD of Bonnyville council passes a motion to join the Alberta Bilingual Municipalities Association
MD sign
MD of Bonnyville signage

BONNYVILLE – The MD of Bonnyville is putting an emphasis on bilingualism in the municipality.

Council voted in favour of becoming a part of the Alberta Bilingual Municipalities Association (ABMA) during the Sept. 16 committee meeting.

“This is a win-win,” noted Coun. Ben Fadeyiw. “With our move-in economic development and attraction of a wider demographic, I think being recognized as a (bilingual) area is very important.”

Coun. Dana Swigart agreed, “I don’t see why we wouldn’t want to join up, and I don’t see any disadvantage of belonging.”

ABMA chair and president Elisa Brosseau along with AMBA coordinator Suzanne Prevost made a presentation to council outlining who the association is, what they can offer municipalities and their future goals.

The association sits under the Rural Development Conseil De Développement Économique De L’Alberta (CDEA), an organization that wants to develop and enhance francophone economic development in Alberta. The AMBA was developed by the CDEA to show there was a core group of municipalities who were interested in being identified as bilingual.

“The AMBA was formally formed in 2010 and it was inspired by a provincial association in Manitoba. They were formed back in 1993 and they’re recognized by their provincial government as being formally bilingual. Any municipality in the Manitoba association is recognized as bilingual by their province,” she detailed, adding that’s a goal for the AMBA.

“Just this past August, the members met to work on a strategic plan to determine some of our future objectives and most notably we want to continue to lobby the provincial government because one of the (goals) is for our association and the municipalities to be directly recognized by the province of Alberta as being bilingual.”

Another project the AMBA has been working on is a northern Alberta bilingual tourism network, which the MD is a part of. It aims to help bilingual micro and craft businesses showcase their skills and know how in order to offer the public a quality tourism service point.

“We got funding from the federal and provincial (government) to realize this project,” explained AMBA coordinator Suzanne Prevost, who is also the director of the CDEA. “It’s a pilot project and it’s going to have a phase two. The end of the first part of March 31 and there will be a phase two to continue the development.”

Brosseau took a moment to explain what the AMBA means when they use the term bilingualism.

“It’s not francophone and it’s not to say that everybody has to speak French,” she explained. “It’s municipalities that recognize the presence of French and English within the municipalities and that could be whether it’s just a home and families speak French at home or it’s the number of services that can be obtained in the municipality by providing French signage of business has staff who speaks French there or a business owner speaks French.”

The MD joins the Town of Bonnyville, Lac La Biche County, Town of St. Paul, City of Grande Prairie, Beaumont, among others as part of the ASBA.

Brosseau outlined a number of benefits for the municipality to become a member, including having a large number of citizens who are bilingual and their proximity to 4 Wing Cold Lake.

“With identifying as being bilingual, that would just help strengthen that relationship with the base and encourage people to move here because they can access a French school, they can shop here in French, and you might also be able to attain investment,” Brosseau said.

Attracting investment by demonstrating openness to collaborative ventures, and allowing francophone and bilingual entrepreneurs greater access to funding for start-ups and growth are other goals of the ABMA.

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle