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September 1st 2017

Statement by Katherine d’Entremont, Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick

In February 2016 I expressed great concerns about the plan to transfer management of the Extra-Mural Program and Tele-Care to Medavie. At that time, I stated: "Medavie EMS manages Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB). Since its creation in 2007, ANB has had considerable difficulty respecting its language obligations. I am therefore quite concerned about the plan to transfer the management of other public programs to Medavie EMS."

Today, the Minister of Health announced the transfer of the management of the Extra-Mural Program and Tele-Care to Medavie. Therefore, I am seeking clarifications from the Minister of Health on the measures planned to guarantee the respect of citizens’ language rights as well as to ensure the vitality of our two official languages, including the following:

  1. Other than an expected clause pertaining to the respect of the Official Languages Act (OLA) obligations in the contract between the provincial government and Medavie, what controls does the Department plan to put in place to ensure that Medavie complies with its language obligations at all times?
     
  2. Given that non-compliance with the OLA is often related to poor planning in the recruitment of bilingual staff and second-language training for employees, is the Department requiring that Medavie develop a comprehensive plan to ensure that it has the staff necessary to provide bilingual service throughout the province at all times?
     
  3. Given that each health network has its own language of operation, some Extra-Mural program employees are currently supervised, and receive human resources services and professional development in French; others, in English. What measures are planned to guarantee that employees will continue to be supervised and receive services in the language currently used in their health network?

In view of the many challenges Ambulance NB continues to experience in delivering bilingual services, and this, more than 10 years since its creation, I still have major concerns about the transfer of the management of the Extra-Mural Program and Tele-Care to Medavie. This initiative must be accompanied by effective means of ensuring full compliance with the Official Languages Act in addition to contributing to the vitality of our two official languages.

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About the language obligations of government when contracting with a third party

Section 30 of the Official Languages Act (OLA) of New Brunswick provides that when the Province or an institution engages a third party to provide a service on its behalf, the Province or the institution, as the case may be, is responsible for ensuring that its linguistic obligations under the OLA are met by the third party.

In the past, Commissioner d’Entremont has pointed out that the government maintains full responsibility for compliance with the OLA when it entrusts a company with the delivery of a service on its behalf.

“Section 30 of the Act specifies that the government has an obligation to ensure that the third party honours the Province’s linguistic obligations, which means that the government cannot divest itself of its responsibility if the third party does not comply with the Official Languages Act.”

Moreover, the Commissioner has urged the government to be clear with third party service providers on the consequences of not respecting the Official Languages Act.

“Government must clearly indicate to its private sector service providers that non-compliance with the government’s linguistic obligations may result in termination of the contract."

For further information:

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