HALIFAX: Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster has some ideas about how to strengthen the provincial government’s support for Gaelic education.
“Right now, there’s a council on Acadian education, Miꞌkmaq education, and African-Nova Scotian education, so I thought why not create one for the Gaelic community?” he said when chatting with The Reporter last week.
MacMaster was referencing a bill he introduced on March 1 that would amend the Education Act to create a Council on Gaelic Education to support teaching the language and culture of Nova Scotian Gaels. The bill also makes the chair of the council a member of the Provincial Advisory Council on Education.
“The purpose of this council is to ensure that when the minister and the Department of Education are deciding what should be in our schools, they consult people from the Gaelic community,” he said. “The purpose of this committee is to ensure that when these young people are learning about the history and language of their people, they learn in a way that’s authentic.”
MacMaster said that in the past, educating youth about the experience of the Gaels was a job that could have been done better. He noted that, years ago, there was a designation presented for the Gaelic College that would have the institute become the Royal Gaelic College.
“Many people at the time were upset when they realized, oh my, here is a title being bestowed which is ironic,” he said. “Part of the reason the Gales left Scotland was that their language and culture was being oppressed.”
Having a vibrant Gaelic culture can also help the province in the long term due to initiatives and events like the Celtic Colours International Music Festival, MacMaster said.
“Celtic Colours brings in about $10 million into the local economy every year,” he said. “And the future of Celtic Colours depends on making sure our young people can carry on the tradition.”
MacMaster said the McNeil government will have trouble not supporting the bill, but he added that the government could draft a similar version of the same bill, because, “they may want to give the credit to themselves.”
“But I really think it will be difficult for them to speak against the bill, because it’s something that should be in place,” he said. “It’s a very small cost to the province, and it supports the minister and the department of education in delivering Gaelic in the schools.”
Kenneth MacKenzie, vice chair of the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia, thinks this council would give teachers the support and guidance they need to more effectively teach youth about the language, history and culture of the Gaels in Nova Scotia.
“This is not only vital to our lucrative tourism and cultural sectors,” says MacKenzie. “It gives our young people a knowledge of who they are and where they come from, driving a desire to contribute to and improve the province as a whole.”