Leader of the Acadian Society of New Brunswick
A spot opens up in the busy schedule of Alexandre Cédric Doucet, the dynamic young president of the Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick (SANB), or Acadian Society of New Brunswick, located in downtown Moncton. Naturally, he takes advantage of the opportunity to present the mission and vision of this organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights and interests of Acadians in the province of New Brunswick. With the support of an executive director, communications director, special projects manager, member relations manager and an administrative team, he’s ready to take the fight to anyone who questions the legitimacy and future of the Acadian people. Alexandre is active on many fronts. At both the provincial and national levels, he works on projects of all kinds involving laws, regulations and policies that affect strategic issues such as the French language, immigration and the rights of Acadian cultural communities. Keenly aware of contemporary issues that impact rural and local communities in his home province and the rest of the Maritimes, he frequently appears in public debates and the media. He also does not hesitate to lobby politicians.
Maintaining a thriving francophone environment was a priority for Alexandre’s mother, a teacher who insisted that her son follow the rules when it came to reading in French and watching French-language shows on TV. Along with his father, a telecommunications engineer, Alexandre grew up in the “tight-knit” French-speaking community of Beresford on the Acadian peninsula. French was a constant presence in his life through his studies at the Université de Moncton, where he served three terms as president of the student association, the Fédération des Étudiantes et Étudiants du Campus Universitaire de Moncton (FÉÉCUM). The young Acadian born in 1994 set himself the goal of contributing to the academic community while also succeeding in his studies… and met the challenge superbly!
At each stage of his life, he has had a number of projects on the go. Although he enrolled in the social work program, the first degree he obtained from the Université de Moncton was in political science, in 2017. During 2017-2018, he focused on studying for a Master of Public Administration degree. In 2021, he earned his degree in law from the same university. Having been named president of the SANB in June 2020, he is also planning to gain admission to the Bar of New Brunswick in the coming years.
July 17, 1981, was a milestone date that shaped future political and strategic action by Acadians. It was on that day that the Act Recognizing the Quality of the Two Official Linguistic Communities in New Brunswick was adopted by the province’s legislative assembly. In 1993, the principle of provincial Bill 88 became Article 16.1 in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In a province where 37% of citizens are francophones, the reasons for this seemed obvious. Unfortunately, relations between Acadians and certain anglophone groups can be surprisingly fraught. In 2020, Alexandre filed a complaint with the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation which noted the lack of French service at one of its branches. This triggered a barrage of hostile reactions in social media, including verbal abuse and death threats. The RCMP was required to intervene. It seems that there are still challenges to constructive dialogue in this rural province of 750,000 inhabitants.
Coordinating immigration by francophones remains one of the SANB’s key undertakings. This begins with elected officials determining suitable targets in order to preserve the French character of the Acadian population. A 50% increase in the annual francophone immigration level is being called for, which would result in almost 5,000 immigrants each year. This needs to be supported by concrete strategies from the provincial and federal authorities. Given that the fertility rate among the province’s Acadian population (1.4 children per woman) is lower than the rate among anglophones (1.7 children per woman), the boost provided by immigration from francophone countries will be crucial in offsetting the decline in francophone population share taking place in New Brunswick since the 1950s.
Attuned to regional issues shared with him by the members of the SANB’s board of directors, Alexandre is aware of the structural issues that directly impact Acadians’ quality of life and their place in the province’s public sector. He mentions access to health services in French for all francophone regions, the representation of francophones in the provincial government, the participation of Acadians on school boards and, of course, the periodic modifications of electoral boundaries. Plus, a new global issue has further increased the challenge of maintaining quality of life for everyone living in coastal areas, as Alexandre notes: “The effects of climate change are threatening the integrity of properties located in coastal systems. This poses a risk to our houses and cottages, not to mention the insurability of our properties. On top of that, there are many municipalities waiting to receive support for crisis response plans. The recognition of at-risk coastal zones is itself an issue. Are governments at different levels doing what is needed to ensure the environmental protection of coastal zones and thereby limit the impacts of coastal erosion?”
For this young leader, it’s evident that Acadians want to play a key role in major projects in the province, which will help generate wealth for everyone. As examples, he mentions the deepwater port of Belledune, new alliances to be established with the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik Nations, upcoming workforce training initiatives and daycares. “It’s also necessary to engage in dialogue with the federal authorities about the management of fishing resources in light of new factors such as climate change and biodiversity conservation,” he remarks.
Since Alexandre maintains close relations with officials in the provincial and federal governments, we took the opportunity to ask him about his messages to them. “Improving social programs and transfer payments to the eastern provinces is always on the agenda,” he says. “The protection of individual rights—a hallmark of Canada—is a priority, as are language rights! Canada and the provinces cannot delay any longer in demonstrating strong leadership on environmental issues, which includes taxing pollution. Canadian leadership should be synonymous with a clear foreign policy on China and Haiti.”
Conscious of the contributions made by our fellow citizens who arrived via immigration, he notes the following: “Knowledge of the identities and cultures of those who will shape the Canada of tomorrow—immigrants—must be taught in our schools. Our relationship with immigrants must go beyond the economic value of workers to incorporate inclusion in all its forms. We should increase international representation at our colleges and universities while integrating more immigrants into public institutions.”
He offers young people some guidance for the future: be persistent and invested in achieving your life goals; find ways to develop your skills; seek out experiences, try new things and allow yourself to make mistakes; adapt to different situations and accept compromises.