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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - P.E.I.’s Green Party is calling on Transportation Minister Paula Biggar to resign from cabinet 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.”
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.
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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,” a Tweet the Progressive Conservatives described as a veiled threat.