While most attention is being focused on the possibility of Quebec separation, signs of autonomist sentiments are visible among New Brunswick's French-speaking Acadians.

About 240,000 Acadians, or a third of the province's total population, are concentrated in the northern part of New Brunswick.

Last year Acadians fought English-speaking residents in the streets of Bathurst over language rights. Although New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada, Bathurst's French majority wanted its own French school asministration.

After the disturbances, the formerly bilingual school system was split into French and English administrations.

The Acadians have established a political party with all ill-defined program calling for a separate French-speaking province in northern New Brunswick. The Parti Acadien envisages an area of 14,000 square miles as a territory within the Canadian confederation.

In the provincial elections last October, the Parti Acadian received nearly 13,000 votes or about 10 percent of the total Acadian vote.

Despite the ties of religion and language, the Acadians are different from the people of Quebec. The Acadians were abandoned by France, then expelled from New Brunswick by the English in 1755. Some Acadians who remained in the province and others who returned later settled far from the English cities. Their isolation helped preserve their language and culture.