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April 24th 2014

Ambulance New Brunswick – New Brunswick’s Official Languages Commissioner urges the Department of Health to step in to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act

Fredericton, April 24, 2014 – New Brunswick’s Official Languages Commissioner, Katherine d’Entremont, is urging the Department of Health to assume its responsibilities and require that Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB) comply with the Official Languages Act. That is the first recommendation made by the Commissioner in an investigation report following an incident which occurred in September 2013. Ambulance NB has acknowledged that neither of the two ambulance attendants dispatched to assist a Dieppe resident was able to speak French.

“This is not only a matter of linguistic rights,” said the Commissioner. In an emergency situation, communication must be clear, concise and timely. Attempting to assist a person without speaking his or her language may have life-threatening consequences. Yet, Ambulance NB has continued to use unilingual ambulance crews. This is unacceptable.”

Commissioner d’Entremont explained that the contract between Ambulance NB and the New Brunswick government contains a provision on compliance with the Official Languages Act. “My message to the government is clear: take the necessary measures to ensure compliance with this provision of the contract.”

Katherine d’Entremont met recently with senior management of the Department of Health to present the investigation report. She explained that the Commissioner’s office has written six investigation reports on Ambulance NB over the past 7 years. “The situation needs to change. The Department of Health must take action to ensure that corrective measures are taken.”

In a 2008 investigation report by the Commissioner’s Office concerning Ambulance NB, the Department of Health confirmed that it requires that there be at least one person able to speak both official languages within each paramedic team. In her current investigation report, Katherine d’Entremont recommends that ANB standardize the level of language proficiency required for bilingual ambulance attendants. “The level of bilingualism required by Ambulance NB varies from region to region,” the Commissioner explained. “It is inconceivable that ANB could fulfill its linguistic obligations with such a system. Ambulance NB must provide services of equal quality in both official languages throughout the province.”

The Commissioner noted that the Premier is responsible for the administration of the Official Languages Act and expects he will ask his Minister of Health to intervene in this matter.

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The investigation report about Ambulance New Brunswick is available on the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages’ website.


Note

Under section 43(17.2) of the Official Languages of Act of New Brunswick, “if the Commissioner considers it to be in the public interest, the Commissioner may publish a report on the results of his or her investigation and on any recommendations made as a result of the investigation.”

It should be noted that the complainant’s name does not appear in the investigation report in order to preserve that person’s anonymity. The complainant was informed that this investigation report would be published.


Information

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca