New Brunswick declares April 2-8 as Celtic Awareness Week

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New Brunswick declares April 2-8 as Celtic Awareness Week

New Brunswickers of Celtic heritage will have a reason to celebrate starting Sunday.

The government has declared the week of April 2-8 as Celtic Awareness Week, intended to celebrate "New Brunswick's rich Celtic heritage," says a government news release.

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"About 42 per cent of New Brunswickers, both francophone and anglophone, can trace some component of their heritage to Celtic origins," the release said.

Celtic organizations celebrating move

The designation is an important step in recognizing Celtic heritage in the province, said Bruce Driscoll, capital area chapter president of the Irish Canadian Cultural Association of New Brunswick. 

"[It's] part of the work the province has done to say, 'Okay, you know what, we do recognize that the Celtic people historically played a large role in the creation of the province and still play a large role in how the province operates,'" he said.

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While some aspects of the province's Celtic heritage is known, such as Partridge Island in Saint John, there is still a lot of history that isn't.

"I think what gets left behind in this province is just how many Irish, Scots, Welsh, Bretons even people from the Isle of Man played in the settling of the province," said Driscoll.

Season of Celts?

Celtic Awareness Week also includes a date close to some Celt's hearts — Tartan Day. April 6, which marks the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, a statement of Scotland's independence, in 1320, is commonly a day to celebrate Scottish heritage.

Celtic Awareness Week also follows on the heels of another giant Celtic celebration, Saint Patrick's Day.

Those independent celebrations of unique Celtic heritage are important, says Driscoll, but a week recognizing shared Celtic culture is better.

"What you need to do is make people aware that those cultures exist and they exist 365...days a year. Not just on St. Patrick's Day or on Robbie Burns' Day or on St. David's Day," said Driscoll.

Memories of ministerial controversy

In June 2016, the government announced the new Minister of Seniors and Long-term Care Lisa Harris would also be the minister responsible for a newly designated role as the Minister responsible for Celtic affairs.

The move was criticized by many, with Mount Allison political science professor Mario Levesque calling the move "bizarre" and Green Party Leader David Coon suggesting the move was to placate New Brunswickers opposed to official bilingualism.

Driscoll said he thinks any controversy died down quickly when people re-examined the move.

"I think people quickly understood this isn't taking away from anything, it's adding something," he said.

Future

While having a week dedicated to Celtic awareness is important to Driscoll, he wants education to be a more permanent fixture.

"What everybody would like to see is something within the school system at an age where people learn early enough."