May 1, 2024

Service in French: I am not able to understand your request well enough to provide treatment.

Fredericton (May 1, 2024) – The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is releasing two investigation reports on complaints alleging deficiencies in the provision of French-language services on the eVisitNB platform. Between October 29, 2022, and February 5, 2023, seven complaints about eVisitNB Inc. were filed with the Office of the Commissioner. A few months after the investigation into these complaints was concluded, another similar complaint was filed with the Office of the Commissioner and was the subject of an investigation.

“In the seven complaints investigated, none of the complainants were able to receive the services they requested in the official language of their choice, French. Indeed, they did not receive any service,” wrote the Commissioner of Official Languages, Shirley MacLean, in the first investigation report, signed on March 20, 2024. “There have been serious breaches of the Official Languages Act.”

In most cases, the complainants submitted their requests in French and, after waiting a certain amount of time, each received the following message in English only, “Unfortunately, I am not able to understand your request well enough to provide treatment.” Other issues identified in the complaints include the quality of the French on the eVisitNB website as well as an automated message that appears when users select their language of choice, stating that “deselecting English may increase the waiting time” and asking them if they are sure before continuing.

“We are increasingly reliant on technology as part of our daily lives, and it is essential that the language rights of all New Brunswickers be given first consideration when new systems are implemented,” said Commissioner MacLean. “The inability to access adequate healthcare services in the official language of choice is more than a simple denial of legislated rights. It may lead to misunderstandings on the part of either patient or provider that may in turn lead to dire or dangerous consequences.”

In her investigation reports, the Commissioner makes numerous recommendations to the Department of Health to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act (OLA). Although the complaints specifically target the eVisitNB platform, it is a private company that provides services on behalf of the Department of Health and therefore acts as a third party under section 30 of the OLA. The Department of Health is therefore responsible for ensuring that its third party meet its linguistic obligations.

“Among the recommendations, I asked for a progress report on their implementation,” said Commissioner MacLean. “Many New Brunswickers use this system to access primary healthcare and my office continues to receive complaints about eVisitNB to this day. It is crucial that the Department resolve these issues to ensure that no member of the public is at a disadvantage because of their official language of choice.”

 

Investigation Reports

Department of Health (1) – March 2024

Department of Health (2) – March 2024 

 

December 11, 2023

2022–2023 Annual Report of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick

Fredericton (December 11, 2023) — The 2022–2023 fiscal year saw a great deal of discussion on the subject of language rights, mainly due to the revision of the Official Languages Act (OLA) and the results of the 2021 Census.

“New Brunswick’s official languages are an integral part of our society. Whether in the Legislative Assembly, in the news or in our communities, there have been many discussions on this subject over the past year,” said Commissioner MacLean. “The province missed an opportunity to make real progress towards the equality of the two official language communities with the revision of the Official Languages Act. Progress was even more crucial at this time, however, since the results of the 2021 Census confirmed some worrying trends for the official linguistic minority, in particular the decline in their demographic weight.”

New Brunswick was not the only jurisdiction that undertook such a review process. The federal government also held a review of the OLA of Canada, which saw significant enhancements as a result.

“In New Brunswick, we had the same opportunity to enhance and strengthen our Official Languages Act, but we did not take advantage of it,” added Commissioner MacLean.

Between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023, the Office of the Commissioner received 160 complaints. Of these, 97 were admissible, 87 alleging a lack of service in French and 10 alleging a lack of service in English. In addition, 109 requests for information were submitted to our office. This represents an increase of almost 40 requests for information over the previous year.

In her annual report, the Commissioner summarizes some of the complaints handled during the fiscal year. One particular investigation summarized in the report demonstrates the importance of official languages, as well as the vulnerability of patients in medical situations.

“My office received complaints relating to seven incidents, at various Horizon and Vitalité health establishments, where a patient was unable to receive forms issued under the Mental Health Act in the official language of their choice,” said Commissioner MacLean. “Our investigation allowed me to conclude that tribunals constituted under the Mental Health Act are administrative tribunals and therefore fit into the definition of ‘court’ under the Official Languages Act.”

A summary of the investigation, the resulting recommendations, and an update on the work carried out since the conclusion of the investigation can be read on pages 34 and 35 of the annual report. The Commissioner commends the ongoing commitment of the institutions involved, and their willingness to accept and implement the recommendations.

“The key to harmony between our two linguistic communities lies in respecting, valuing and truly upholding the principle of equality of English and French. We must all remain steadfast in our efforts to achieve true linguistic equality in New Brunswick—a goal I am convinced we can achieve together,” concluded Commissioner MacLean.

 

Full report:

June 10, 2023

Opinion letter: Bill 37 – Puzzling amendments

The following opinion letter was submitted to New Brunswick’s daily newspapers on June 8, 2023 by the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Shirley C. MacLean, K.C.

I was able to listen to the debate before the Standing Committee on Economic Policy when Premier Higgs introduced amendments to Bill 37 – An Act Respecting the Official Languages Act. I was gratified to see that the government has decided to bring back the 10-year review of the Official Languages Act which they had repealed in the original Bill. However, the amendments pertaining to the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages leave me perplexed and concerned.

The existing Official Languages Act required the Commissioner to prepare and submit an annual report to the Legislative Assembly “concerning the activities of the Office of the Commissioner.”

The amendments to section 43(21) of the Act, will now require that the following specific information be contained in our annual report: the nature of the complaints, the type of complaints, whether an investigation was conducted pursuant to a complaint or by the initiative of the Commissioner and “the number of instances a particular complaint was made by the same complainant.”

I am uncertain what concerns the government is seeking to rectify by including these requirements. Currently, our annual report contains detailed information about the type of complaints that are filed, including the government institution that is the subject of the complaint. We also provide detailed statistics as to types of complaints by service type, such as whether the incident related to in-person services, online services, etc. We include information on admissible complaints filed by region of the province. In addition, we also advise whether the investigation is one that is initiated by the Commissioner.

Let me also clarify that section 43(10) of the Official Languages Act permits and requires the Commissioner to conduct and carry out investigations on “…his or her own initiative.”

The provision requiring our office to disclose additional details about particular complainants is of concern to me. Individuals who file complaints have the right to remain anonymous. Our office does not disclose their names and will maintain their privacy. The right of complainants to remain anonymous and to have their identity protected exists in many contexts such as workplace investigations, in the context of whistleblowing, human rights investigations and so on. This ensures in part that complainants will not be subject to retaliation or harassment. When complainants are not required to reveal their identity, they may feel able to reveal more information about a situation than they otherwise would so that the situation may be more readily resolved. The intent behind this amendment is unclear.

I think of the situation of patients who have chronic illnesses who attend hospitals or clinics on a regular basis for treatment and do not receive services in their official language of choice. They do not want to reveal their identity so as not to be “singled out” or to be seen as a troublemaker. But they do want us to help them obtain the service in their language of choice. Just because the same individual complains that their language rights have not been respected on numerous occasions does not make their complaint less valid.

The decision of the government to include this amendment causes me grave concern. What are they seeking to find out? Other Legislative Officers who also conduct investigations, such as the Ombud, the Child Youth and Seniors Advocate do not have the same requirement in their legislation to include this additional and potentially revealing information in their annual reports.

Every year I file my annual report with the Premier and meet with the Standing Committee of Procedure, Privileges and Legislative Officers in the Legislative Assembly to present it.

We have not received a formal response from the Premier or the government to my annual reports and I was not consulted about any proposed changes to the Official Languages Act so I am not certain as to what “vice” this amendment is attempting to remedy. Is it an attempt to diminish the perceived importance of complaints or to discredit certain complainants? I am uncertain.

It is unfortunate that the opportunities offered by the revision of the Official Languages Act to adopt many of the recommendations of Commissioners Finn and McLaughlin has not come to fruition. In these last days prior to the adoption of the amendments to the Official Languages Act I am left with a sense that we have missed an opportunity to demonstrate progress toward true equality for both linguistic communities.

However, I must assure all New Brunswickers that our office will not reveal the identities of complainants who wish to remain anonymous, and their confidentiality will be maintained. My Office and I will continue to examine each complaint and continue to work with government institutions and others with obligations under the Act to remedy issues as they arise. In fact, this is what we have been doing for many years with great cooperation and success. We will continue to celebrate the good work that is being done by many in this wonderful province to ensure that the rights of our two official linguistic communities are protected!

January 23, 2023

Opinion letter: Understanding the Official Languages Act

The following opinion letter was submitted to New Brunswick’s daily newspapers on January 18, 2023 by the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Shirley C. MacLean, K.C.

When I accepted the position of Commissioner of Official Languages in January 2020, I never thought the climate around official languages would be so tense just three years later. Our nation and our province have been officially bilingual for over 50 years – since the adoption of our Official Languages Act (OLA) in 1969. The province then wanted to go beyond that Act and Richard Hatfield’s government adopted An Act Recognizing the Equality of the Two Linguistic Communities in New Brunswick which recognizes the province’s social contract that is rooted in linguistic duality. Since that time, our Legislative Assembly through the leadership of premiers of all political stripes, has implemented legislative changes that have entrenched the rights of our two official linguistic communities, English and French. Most importantly since 1982, the constitution recognizes these language rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Since 2002 the OLA has included a provision to review the Act every 10 years. Amendments implemented over the years have served to progress the equality of our two official linguistic communities. For example, the requirement for government institutions to provide services in the official language of choice was bolstered by adding the active offer. Institutions must now actively offer services in both official languages to members of the public. Additionally, professional associations now have the same obligations under the OLA as government institutions.

The Commissioner of Official Languages position was added to the OLA in 2002. I am an independent legislative officer. I do not work for government. Like my counterparts the Child and Youth Advocate, the Auditor General and the Ombud, my role is to ensure government carries out the work they are required to do. I investigate complaints from the public when they believe their language rights under the OLA have not been respected and report my findings to the public. This important work is conducted in a fair and impartial manner. I am also mandated to promote both of our official languages.

So far, my experience has been that government institutions are aware of their obligations under the OLA and actively cooperate with us in our work.

So why are things tense? As Commissioner, I have observed a lack of understanding as to what the OLA means and I feel I must take this opportunity to talk about that.

New Brunswick has two official linguistic communities. The French linguistic community is the minority linguistic community. The English linguistic community is the majority linguistic community. The rights in the Charter and the OLA are not meant to set up a system to accommodate a linguistic minority or to provide special status to a linguistic minority, but to ensure the two communities are treated equally. The OLA clearly does provide protection to the official linguistic minority. That is the nature of language rights legislation. It also means that no group is to be treated differently and that we all have access to the same rights and privileges as the other official linguistic community. The rights of our minority linguistic community are not secondary rights.

Our OLA is not about bilingualism. Yes, New Brunswick is an officially bilingual province and the desire and efforts of both official linguistic communities to learn, participate in and enjoy each other’s language and culture is laudable and important to us. However, the OLA is not about requiring individuals to be bilingual. If one takes the time to read the Act, they will see it requires institutional bilingualism. Government institutions, municipalities, professional associations and other public bodies have specific legal obligations to ensure the public is provided with services in the official language of choice.

The New Brunswick government does not require all employees be bilingual. As of March 31, 2019, according to the Government of New Brunswick figures, 55% of Part I employees must be able to speak English. However, enough positions must be filled by people who can communicate in both official languages so that government institutions can serve members of the public equally in both official languages.

We all must be given the choice of our official language whether we are accessing health care services, going online or visiting SNB to renew our driver’s permit or writing an accreditation examination to gain admission to a profession. Every New Brunswicker has the right, when accessing these important services, to communicate in our official language of choice and to understand what is being communicated to us.

It is true that the great majority of my work relates to failures to provide services to the official linguistic minority, francophones. As an anglophone, I do not have difficulty obtaining service in my official language. It is not something I worry about in New Brunswick. This is not the case for francophones.

When minority language rights are not respected, the courts have continuously interpreted linguistic rights in a very broad way that demonstrates that language rights entail significant positive obligations that go beyond merely providing services.

The OLA is a quasi-constitutional document that imposes a positive obligation on the government of New Brunswick to preserve and promote both of our official linguistic communities. This is an area where I think we have seen success. Our two official linguistic communities are part of the fabric of our wonderful province, along with our Indigenous peoples and our many newcomers. Recent data indicates that New Brunswickers generally support the desire and efforts of both official linguistic communities to learn, participate in and enjoy each other’s language and culture.

There are, however, clear constitutional rights that exist for our two official linguistic communities which require not accommodation, but continued equality and our OLA clearly states that equality means more than just provision of services but also promotion of cultural security.

The government recently announced the establishment of a government secretariat to assist the government in meeting their language obligations under the OLA. The details of secretariat are not yet clear. At the time of this writing, there has also been no response to the other 31 recommendations made by Commissioners Finn and McLaughlin in their review of the OLA. I sincerely hope the government intends to build on the work of previous governments and continue moving forward to achieve true equality.

December 12, 2022

A scant response to the report of the review of the Official Languages Act

Fredericton, December 12, 2022 – The following statement was released today by Shirley MacLean, Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, following the government’s announcement on the review of the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick.

“After a year’s wait, today we received a vague response from the Premier on the review of the Official Languages Act.

The Report of the 2021 Review of the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick, by Commissioners Yvette Finn and John McLaughlin, included a detailed analysis and recommendations to continue the progression towards equality of status, rights and privileges of our two official languages. The government has now given some hints of a bill to come in the spring, without giving a full response to the report on the review.

While I applaud the creation of an Official Languages Secretariat within government, a long-standing recommendation of the Office of the Commissioner, I must admit that I am left wanting more information about the government’s other intentions regarding official languages in New Brunswick. This is an issue that I will continue to follow closely. In the meantime, I remain committed to listening to our two linguistic communities and to carrying out my mandate with integrity.”

 

Media contact:
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444 (toll free)
commissioner@officiallanguages.nb.ca

December 12, 2022

2021-2022 Annual Report of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick

Fredericton, December 12, 2022 – The Commissioner of Official Languages invites all New Brunswickers to stand together and speak with one voice in support of official bilingualism in New Brunswick. In her annual report for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, Commissioner Shirley MacLean reminds the government that a recent public opinion survey found that 81% of New Brunswickers support the Official Languages Act.

“There has been a lot of talk about official languages in the province recently,” declared Commissioner MacLean. “The handling of the review of the Official Languages Act and the changes to French immersion are two topics that have generated a lot of attention. The vast majority of us have an inherent respect for both linguistic communities in the province. Let us stand together as a majority and speak with one voice.”

In her report, the Commissioner makes four recommendations to government:

  • to make effective use of the findings of the Language and Society public opinion survey when developing policies and public communications related to official languages;
  • that when the next legislative amendments are made to the Official Languages Act, subsection 42(1) stipulate that a 10-year review be undertaken but add that the Premier must react formally to the recommendations of the review within 60 days of the conclusion of the review process;
  • to provide the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages with an adequate budget, with no administrative constraints, so that it may fulfil its promotional mandate as it sees fit and continue promoting the advancement of both official languages in the province;
  • to redouble its efforts to meet its target of welcoming 33% Francophone immigrants annually by 2024, as set out in New Beginnings: A Population Growth Strategy for New Brunswick 2019-2024. Once this target is reached, a new remedial target should be adopted to close the gaps that have persisted for many years.

In addition, the Commissioner’s report presents a series of files handled during the 2021-2022 fiscal year. These summaries present the recommendations made to the institutions concerned by the complaints. The Commissioner notes that numerous complaints were received  concerning health care in 2021-2022, with more than 40% of the complaints handled concerning the regional health authorities or the Department of Health.

In fact, from April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, the Office of the Commissioner received 206 complaints. Of these, 104 were admissible, with 11 based on lack of service in English and 93 based on lack of service in French.

“Once again, I must emphasize the willingness of government institutions to cooperate with my office in resolving complaints,” added Commissioner MacLean. “Even though the system is not perfect and violations of the Official Languages Act are brought to our attention, institutions take a positive approach and are willing to resolve the issues raised. It comes down to respect, pride and equality.”

Full report: 2021-2022 Annual Report of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick

 

Media contact:
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444 (toll free)
commissioner@officiallanguages.nb.ca

August 15, 2022

Happy National Acadian Day!

Fredericton, August 15, 2022 – The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Shirley MacLean, issued the following statement on the occasion of National Acadian Day:

“On this August 15, I invite New Brunswickers to celebrate. Let us celebrate by commemorating the history, appreciating the cultural richness, and recognizing the dynamism of New Brunswick’s Acadian community.

The battle to preserve the French language is an intrinsic part of New Brunswick’s Acadian history. Such is the fate of a language in a minority situation. On this August 15, I invite all New Brunswickers to continue to assert their language rights as set out in the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is by taking these actions that we can move towards substantive linguistic equality.

New Brunswick is at the heart of the Acadian diaspora. National Acadian Day is an opportunity to share the inviting, warm, and welcoming culture of New Brunswick’s Acadia with everyone. But beyond a simple day, this culture must be celebrated every day. For it is by increasing mutual understanding between our two linguistic communities that we will learn to understand each other better. Happy August 15!”

June 10, 2022

Statement on the government’s inaction on the review of the Official Languages Act

Fredericton, June 10, 2022 – The following statement was issued today by Shirley MacLean, Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick.

“On this last day of the spring sitting of the Legislative Assembly, I am greatly disappointed by the Premier’s silence on the review of the Official Languages Act.

In December 2021, the Report of the 2021 Review of the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick authored by Commissioners John McLaughlin and Judge Yvette Finn was made public. Almost six months have passed and there has not been a response or indication from the government as to the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report. Indeed, the Premier, who pursuant to section 2 of the Official Languages Act is responsible for its administration,  has not commented publicly in any concrete way about the recommendations to review the Official Languages Act.

The preamble to the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick states that the Constitution of Canada affirms, with respect to both official languages, the authority of the Legislature and Government of New Brunswick to advance the status, rights and privileges of the English linguistic community and the French linguistic community in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick Premiers from Louis J. Robichaud to David Alward have shown leadership and unwavering support for official bilingualism over the past 53 years. They have adopted and reviewed the Official Languages Act to advance the equality of status and use of English and French in New Brunswick. These changes through the years have provided ongoing recognition of the importance of our Official Languages Act, and acceptance that this legislation is important to New Brunswickers and official language minority communities.

As a jurist, I can appreciate that legislative amendments do not happen overnight. But six months after the release of the report on the review of the Official Languages Act, New Brunswickers at the very least deserve to hear the Premier’s reactions and intentions as to the implementation of the report’s recommendations.

The government’s failure to respond to the Report of the 2021 Review of the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick ignores the 6,656 questionnaire participants, the 31 briefs filed with the commissioners during their consultations and the over 80 meetings with 200 individuals and 52 stakeholder groups who participated in those discussions. More importantly, the failure to respond leaves the impression that the report lacks importance, and this is disrespectful to the commissioners, the participants in the consultation process, and all New Brunswickers.

Lack of progress on this file is in fact a setback for language rights. Let’s continue to move our province forward. Let’s modernize our Official Languages Act.”

 

Media contact:
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444 (toll free)
commissioner@officiallanguages.nb.ca

April 9, 2022

Opinion letter: Affirming our unequivocal support for official languages

The following opinion letter was submitted to New Brunswick’s daily newspapers on April 7, 2022 by the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Shirley C. MacLean, Q.C.

Last fall, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick commissioned a public opinion survey to take stock of New Brunswickers’ views on multiple aspects of official languages in the province: attitudes towards bilingualism, the relationship between linguistic communities, the quality and importance of language instruction in our public schools, perceptions of identity, and the delivery of government services in either official language.

The results, released on April 4, are clear: a strong majority of New Brunswickers (81%), from all regions of the province, support the concept of the Official Languages Act and bilingualism. This most recent survey echoed themes from a similar survey conducted by the Office of the Commissioner in 2009. At that time, support for official languages in the province stood at 82%.

New Brunswickers continue to show majority support for bilingualism today, despite the fact that an openly anti-bilingualism political faction has been active in the province for the past 12 years. These are encouraging results that, in my view, support the theory that the majority often remains silent while minority voices are unfortunately amplified, often with the help of social media, which can create an echo chamber effect.

In reality, official languages and mutual respect between our two linguistic communities are fundamental values in New Brunswick. Overall, the vast majority of us are proud of our status as Canada’s only bilingual province and want to continue to foster and nurture a New Brunswick where we preserve and promote the equal status, rights, and privileges of the English and French linguistic communities.

Support for the Official Languages Act and bilingualism is centred on respect for both official languages, while opposition to bilingualism is found primarily among Anglophones who cited the notion of privilege for Francophones or bilingual New Brunswickers with respect to access to public service employment opportunities. It is important to note that this opposition was expressed by a minority of survey respondents and does not reflect New Brunswickers as a whole.

This notion of favouritism for Francophones and bilingual workers in the province is a long-standing myth. According to recent data obtained from the government, unilingual Anglophones have access to 55% of government jobs in Part I of the provincial civil service.

The Official Languages Act seeks to ensure that New Brunswickers can access government services in the language of their choice – it does not dictate that all government jobs must be filled by bilingual employees. Certainly, in order to provide services in both official languages, a number of positions in the province are designated bilingual, but through a team approach, unilingual employees are often able to work collaboratively with their Francophone or bilingual colleagues to provide public services in accordance with the Official Languages Act.

Furthermore, I believe that the myths and discontent underlying the opposition are rooted in a lack of understanding of the Act and its objectives. The survey results showed a low level of awareness of the Official Languages Act and of the existence of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages in general. This tells me that I still have work to do as Commissioner.

The Official Languages Act does not impose bilingualism on New Brunswickers. It exists to ensure that everyone in New Brunswick – our neighbours, our colleagues, our friends – can receive government services in the official language of their choice. It is at the root of our identity as a province: two linguistic communities, two languages, with their histories, their richness, and their possibilities.

Beyond their practical application here in the province, our language rights are also recognized in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a component of the Constitution Act, the supreme law of our land. Enshrined in the Charter, the equal rights and privileges of English and French in New Brunswick are not up for debate.

I therefore encourage all of you to be proud to affirm your unequivocal support for both official languages in our province. Our status as a bilingual province is part of our identity and the vast majority of us are proud of it. Show your support openly, don’t be afraid to assert your belief that every New Brunswicker, whether Anglophone or Francophone, has a fundamental right to speak their language in public institutions. Together, we can change the narrative around official languages and bilingualism.

April 4, 2022

Support for official languages remains high in New Brunswick

Fredericton, April 4, 2022 – A strong majority of New Brunswickers (81%) from all regions of the province support the concept of the Official Languages Act and bilingualism. In addition, the majority of New Brunswickers (92%) feel it is important that instruction in the other official language be available in the province’s schools. These are some of the findings of a public opinion survey conducted by MQO Research for the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages last fall. The new survey echoed themes from a similar survey conducted by the Office of the Commissioner in 2009.

“These results show that official languages and mutual respect between our two linguistic communities are fundamental values in New Brunswick,” said Commissioner MacLean. “Overall, the vast majority of us are proud of our status as Canada’s only bilingual province and want to continue to foster and nurture a New Brunswick where we preserve and promote the equal status, rights and privileges of the English and French linguistic communities.”

The research report addresses six major themes, including the province’s linguistic profile, perceptions of the Official Languages Act, relations between linguistic communities, language of service, language and education, and attitudes on language and society. The main findings are as follows:

  • 81% of respondents support the Official Languages Act;
  • 89% of respondents are confident that they can receive government services in the official language of their choice;
  • some Francophones said that the quality of service they received in a provincial government office was worse than the service they would have received in the other official language;
  • 92% of respondents felt it was important that instruction in the other official language be available in New Brunswick schools;
  • 91% of respondents felt that second language training for adults should be available free of charge in the province;
  • there is low awareness of the Official Languages Act and the existence of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages;
  • only 76% of Francophones speak French most often at home, while 99% of Anglophones speak their mother tongue most often at home;
  • young Anglophones are more likely to report a good level of bilingualism than their older counterparts; and
  • the myth that there is a preference for Francophones or bilingual speakers in terms of employment opportunities persists.

“When it comes to official languages, it is sometimes easy to hear only the voice of the vocal minority,” added Commissioner MacLean. “My goal in commissioning this survey was to be able to take stock of New Brunswickers’ attitudes towards language and society. The overall results of this survey, with 81% of New Brunswickers supporting the Official Languages Act, are certainly enlightening and encouraging.”

Full report: Language and Society in New Brunswick

 

Media contact:
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444 (toll free)
commissioner@officiallanguages.nb.ca

February 2, 2022

Reaction to the report on second-language learning

Fredericton, February 2, 2022 – The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Shirley MacLean, has reviewed the report on second-language learning released today by Commissioners Yvette Finn and John McLaughlin.

“While second-language learning is not part of my mandate as Commissioner of Official Languages, it is a topic of great interest to my office, as individual bilingualism impacts the ability of our government institutions to provide service of equal quality in both official languages across the province,” said Commissioner MacLean.

The commissioner is pleased to note the report recognizes the importance of continuity in language learning. The report contains recommendations to improve second-language learning in the province’s education system from early childhood onwards and for the adult population, noting the importance of using second languages in social contexts to promote cross-cultural interaction, understanding, and appreciation.

Among other topics, the report makes a number of recommendations regarding school eligibility rules based on language. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages wishes to remind the government that, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, New Brunswick’s English-speaking and French-speaking communities have the right to distinct educational institutions necessary for their protection and promotion. This constitutional guarantee and the principles of minority language protection must guide any legislative changes in this regard.

“Once again, I wish to thank the commissioners and their team for this extensive consultation process,” added Commissioner MacLean. “Now that the commissioners’ mandate is complete, I urge the Premier to move quickly to introduce legislation to review New Brunswick’s Official Languages Act and improve respect for language rights for all.”

 

Media contact:
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444 (toll free)
commissioner@officiallanguages.nb.ca

December 15, 2021

Report on the review of the Official Languages Act: a good start

Fredericton, December 15, 2021 – The Commissioner of Official Languages welcomes the Report of the 2021 Review of the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick tabled today. In particular, she applauds the recommendations for the creation of a central entity dedicated to official languages within government, the establishment of a Standing Committee on Official Languages in the Legislative Assembly, measures to increase the effectiveness of the Office of the Commissioner, and the explicit inclusion of nursing homes in the Act.

“A provincial Department of Official Languages could support the Premier in the administration of the Act,” said Commissioner MacLean. “This is a recommendation we have made repeatedly, and I am convinced that the creation of this entity will finally give the official languages file the profile it deserves in Canada’s only officially bilingual province.”

While the Commissioner believes the creation of a Department of Official Languages will help ensure better compliance with the Act and help ensure that provincial public servants can work in the language of their choice, she would have liked to see a stronger recommendation to clearly enshrine in the Act the right of provincial public servants to work in the official language of their choice.

“I now encourage the government to act quickly to implement these recommendations,” added Commissioner MacLean. “The public has been consulted, the analysis has been done, and now it is time to act. I urge the Premier and all members of the Legislative Assembly to ensure that legislation is introduced and passed without delay.”

The Commissioner of Official Languages thanks Commissioners Finn and McLaughlin and their team for carrying out this extensive work. She also acknowledges the participation of the many organizations and individuals who took the time to participate in this important review exercise.

 

Media contact:
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444 (toll free)
commissioner@officiallanguages.nb.ca