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February 25th 2015

Justice and language rights

Fredericton, February 25, 2015 – English and French are the official languages of the New Brunswick courts. What does this actually mean for New Brunswickers? A new factsheet from the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick answers that question.

In New Brunswick, all individuals have the right to use English or French before a court. “Whether an Anglophone has to appear in Caraquet or a Francophone has to appear before a court in Woodstock, every person has the right to use the official language of his or her choice before the provincial courts,” explained Commissioner Katherine d’Entremont. “Moreover, the Official Languages Act (OLA) stipulates that no person shall be placed at a disadvantage by reason of his or her choice of language.”

It should be noted that the word “court” applies not only to courts of law, but also to administrative tribunals.

“Administrative tribunals exist in fields as diverse as property assessment, workers’ compensation, energy, and human rights,” added d’Entremont. “All administrative tribunals must hear citizens in the official language of their choice.” The factsheet also points out that the administrative tribunal’s judge must have the ability to understand, without the aid of an interpreter, the language chosen by the parties in a case.

“The bilingual capacity of our courts is essential to guarantee that all New Brunswickers have access to the justice system in the official language of their choice,” said d’Entremont.

In addition to the courts, other organizations connected with the justice system have linguistic obligations. The factsheet gives as examples Sheriff services and the New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission.

The factsheet also addresses the importance of the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick. We are reminded that the Premier of New Brunswick is responsible for the administration of the OLA. Moreover, in the event of a conflict between the OLA and another provincial act, the OLA prevails. For anyone who is interested in the evolution of language rights in New Brunswick, the factsheet also presents a few historical milestones.

“Language rights are fundamental rights,” stated d’Entremont. “That is why they enjoy increased protection, notably through their inclusion in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

This new factsheet on language rights is the fourth in a series produced by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick. This initiative ties in with the Commissioner’s mandate to promote the advancement of both official languages. The initiative also seeks to follow up on the 2013 Report of the Select Committee on the Revision of the Official Languages Act in which the Committee expressed hope that “the Commissioner would make greater efforts to improve public awareness of [her] role.”

To consult and print these factsheets, visit the website of the Office of the Commissioner at: http://www.officiallanguages.nb.ca/ (My Rights section)

For more information:

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

About the Commissioner of Official Languages

The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is an independent officer of the Legislature. Her role is to protect the language rights of the members of the Anglophone and Francophone communities and to promote the advancement of both official languages.