Saint John — A group calling itself the Citizens’ Coalition for a Better Licence Plate Slogan has launched an online petition to gather support to change the current New Brunswick plate slogan to “The Vigilante Province… Justice Populaire.”
Spokesperson Bud Carson says the group has collected 50,000 signatures in the first week alone. “I think this groundswell of support is just the beginning,” Carson explained. “I firmly believe that people in this province think this slogan is far more representative than what was pushed on us before,” referring to the Graham government’s “Be… in this place” slogan — which the Alward government promptly began phasing out.
“That slogan represents the ineptitude of the Graham government,” he added contemptuously. “Did they hire some rejects from a Philosophy 101 class to come up with this stuff? You know, an ‘I think… therefore I am,’ kind of thing?
“What really sticks me is that I could have come up with something a lot better. Just give me a few James Readys to crush and I could have invented a slogan we’d be proud of.”
St. Thomas University criminology professor Bella Kaku said the province actually has a long history of vigilante activity. “New Brunswick may have the image of a picturesque backwater with indolent people, but history tells us that when you push them past a certain point, they respond with swift and brutal violence.”
Kaku recalls several events — such as the Saint John streetcar strike in 1914 or more recently in Grand Manan where residents burned down a meth dealer’s house — that amply demonstrate New Brunswick’s vigilante culture.
“Acts of vigilantism tend to be emotional and knee-jerk reactions, often in rural areas, to the inability or unwillingness of authorities to deal with perceived threats or injustices.”
Jeanne d’Arc Gaudet, former president of the Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick (SANB), expressed her approval of the slogan. “It translates well into French and fits neatly on a licence plate. People often forget that the francophone population of this province has long embraced vigilantism as means of self-defense.”
In particular, Gaudet refers to the Petit-Rocher uprising of 1977 when townsfolk forcibly rerouted the Dalton motorcycle gang after a prolonged period of the gang’s harassing residents. “The SANB wants to propose a commemorative postage stamp to honour the Biker Beat Down of ’77,” Gaudet added.
Meanwhile, Carson remains determined.
“Some people think the slogan will give the wrong impression to outsiders, but I think it projects the perfect image. Come and visit anytime. Stay a while — if you can find a job — but if you cross the line and push us too far you will regret it.”