Moncton business community worries about losing French consulate

The Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce and 3+ Corporation are sending a letter to French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, asking him to keep Moncton's French consulate open. 

The French government recently announced it plans to close the Moncton office in 2022 to save money. Johan Schitterer, the general consul of France for Atlantic Canada, would not say how much it costs to operate Moncton's consulate.

Moncton's consulate employs four people. Schitterer said it's not clear what would happen with those four employees yet, although they will  likely be relocated elsewhere. 

John Wishart, CEO of the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce, said the potential impacts of closing the consulate are beginning to dawn on Moncton's business community. 

"When business people have needed it — needed a question answered, needed a contact, or a way to understand how to trade with France — that's where they've gone," Wishart said.

In addition to being available for recent francophone immigrants, the consulate serves as a trade representative between France and Atlantic Canada.

Fifty-seven companies actively traded goods between France and Canada last year, Wishart said. He said the number of companies trading with France has increased by 64 per cent since 2013. 

"We're fearful that if we have to rely on a consulate based in Montreal, businesses in this region won't get the same type of service," he said. 

Wishart also said having a consulate in New Brunswick eases the immigration process for French citizens looking to live in the province. 

France also has consular officers in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and northern Quebec. The Moncton consulate serves businesses and recent immigrants in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cultural significance, too 

The letter to France's prime minister says the consulate has been a vital link between the two countries for more than 50 years. 

"The relationship between France and l'Acadie is a long and enduring one," the letter reads. "Over the last three centuries, our countries have fostered deep connections, and we fear the closure of the consulate will put those connections at risk.

The letter argues the consulate should stay open to foster cultural exchanges, assist in immigration, and bridge economic opportunities between the two countries. 

"Now is not the time for France to end its physical presence in our region," the letter said.

The letter proposes a meeting between Moncton's business community, the New Brunswick government and French officials. 

Wishart said he wants to impress upon people the importance of Moncton's consulate in hopes of getting France to reverse its decision.