August 14, 2020

Statement by Official Languages Commissioner Shirley MacLean on the occasion of National Acadian Day

Fredericton, August 14, 2020 – The following statement was issued today by Official Languages Commissioner Shirley MacLean on the occasion of National Acadian Day:

On August 15, we celebrate the language, culture and history of our Acadian friends and neighbours.

This year’s celebration may not look like those of past years. Even so, it will serve as an important reminder to reflect on all that the Acadian people have given our province – including the bilingual identity we work to protect and promote every day.

I encourage all New Brunswickers to take pride in our Acadian heritage, as well as to recognize and appreciate the unique value of our two languages in making us the only officially bilingual province we are today.

Happy National Acadian Day!
Bonne fête des Acadiens!

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

 

October 4, 2019

The Commissioner of Official Languages presents his 2018-2019 Annual Report

Fredericton, October 4, 2019 – Acting Commissioner of Official Languages, Michel Carrier, today presented his annual report for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. As the province celebrates 50 years of official languages this year, Michel Carrier urges the provincial government to provide the means to meet the many remaining challenges to attaining equality of both official languages in the province. Hence, Commissioner Carrier recommends that the government create an Official Languages Secretariat.

“Over the past 50 years, we have made tremendous progress,” said Mr. Carrier. “But we still have a long way to go. The vitality of the French language is fragile, the provision of bilingual services in some hospitals is not ensured, our two linguistic communities do not benefit equally from immigration, English is the preferred language of work in the public service, and we must increase opportunities for people to learn the other official language. The magnitude of these and other challenges requires the government to develop the appropriate means and resources to take them on.”

In his message, Michel Carrier recalls that an investigation conducted by the Office of the Commissioner in 2018 revealed that the provincial government is having great difficulty implementing the Plan on Official Languages – a plan designed to move toward greater equality in the use of English and French in New Brunswick. The Office of the Commissioner concluded that the lack of a structure and of adequate resources to implement the Plan explains this situation.

“How can it be explained that the only officially bilingual province in the country does not have a specific government agency with the necessary powers and resources to ensure compliance with the obligations contained in the Charter and the Official Languages Act,” asks Michel Carrier. “On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the OLA, it is time for our province to have an Official Languages Secretariat.”

Ambulance NB’s linguistic obligations

A chapter of the 2018-2019 Annual Report is devoted to the language obligations of Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB). The Office of the Commissioner presents a detailed retrospective of its interventions in this area since the establishment of ANB in 2007. Included in this review is the action taken by the Office of the Commissioner to persuade the provincial government not to implement arbitrator McEvoy’s decision and to maintain the application for judicial review of this decision.

Commissioner Carrier is very satisfied with the outcome of this case. “The Court of Queen’s Bench reversed the arbitrator’s decision and made it clear that ANB must provide services of equal quality to all Anglophone and Francophone New Brunswickers,” said Michel Carrier. “The court’s decision reminds us that language rights are not negotiable.”

Complaints and investigations

During the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the Office of the Commissioner received 89 admissible complaints. Of these, 75 were complaints about services in French; 14, on services in English. The annual report presents several summaries of investigations, including one on the use of the Facebook Live tool without simultaneous interpretation at a government press conference, the other on the linguistic obligations of nursing homes in the province. The absence of a policy on government signage which considers the linguistic composition of regions is also presented. Commissioner Carrier believes that the lack of such a policy on government signage is a direct consequence of the absence of a government agency whose primary responsibility would be to ensure respect of the Official Languages Act. Carrier has been waiting for such a policy for almost 10 years now.

Videos to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act

Commissioner Carrier took advantage of the presentation of his annual report to announce the upcoming release of a series of video capsules on social media.

“Half a century of official languages, that is quite an accomplishment,” said Carrier. “We need to celebrate what makes us unique in Canada, being the only officially bilingual province.”

The first two capsules will feature short testimonials from New Brunswickers from all walks of life. Other capsules will honour all those who have made the effort to learn French or English.

“Our two official languages are at the heart of our collective identity,” said Carrier. “New Brunswickers, both Anglophones and Francophones, can be proud of what they have accomplished together over the last 50 years. These capsules are a way to celebrate this success.”

They were produced by Moncton’s BrainWorks with the financial support of the governments of New Brunswick and Canada, and will be broadcast during the months of October and November 2019.

 

For more information:

Hugues Beaulieu
Executive Director
506 444-4229 or 1 888 651-6444 (toll free)
hugues.beaulieu@gnb.ca

 

 

 

 

June 3, 2019

A working group to increase the economic benefits of bilingualism

Moncton, June 3, 2019 – The New Brunswick Business Council and the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick announced today that they will create a working group to increase the economic benefits of bilingualism in the province. Thus, they are implementing the main recommendation of the study by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick: Two languages: It’s good for business.

The authors of this study, economist Pierre-Marcel Desjardins and economic development specialist David Campbell, presented an update of their study when the creation of the working group was announced.

Two languages: It’s good for business presents nine major economic benefits attributable to the province’s bilingual character and workforce. For example, thanks to its two official languages, New Brunswick has a customer contact center and back office industry generating $ 1.5 billion annually in export revenues and employs more than 15,000 people in the province. In this regard, unilingual English individuals in the province represent the majority of employees in this industry. Indeed, every bilingual job created in the customer contact centers resulted in the creation of two unilingual English jobs. Among the other benefits of bilingualism, the authors highlight its key role in the development of a language industry, in the growth of export revenues and in the development of the tourism industry.

The authors of the study also propose ways to consolidate these gains and exploit the full economic potential of bilingualism. Finally, they recommend the creation of a business / government council to achieve this goal.

Representatives from the working group explained that they want to create a synergy to further take advantage of the bilingual character of the province. They also noted that other stakeholders may join the group.

Opportunities NB will provide a perspective to the working group on behalf of New Brunswick’s economic development sector.

Quote from Michel A. Carrier, Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick

I congratulate and thank the New Brunswick Business Council, the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick and Opportunities New Brunswick for their leadership on this important file for the prosperity of our province.

Quote from Adrienne O’Pray, President & CEO of the New Brunswick Business Council

The Business Council believes that there is even greater opportunity for the province in terms of economic growth that is yet untapped for New Brunswick. We are looking forward, once again, to working in partnership with le Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick and Opportunities New Brunswick to diversify our economy and taking advantage of this incredible asset we have in bilingualism.

Quote from Thomas Raffy, CEO of the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick

Economic bilingualism has long been an important issue for the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick and its members, who see it as a powerful driver of development for our province. As this study reconfirms, the bilingualism of our workforce is an indisputable asset that we must use to diversify our economy. We are very pleased to be part of this working group whose actions will have a real impact on our future.

Quote from Stephen Lund, CEO of Opportunities New Brunswick

We recognize the benefits of bilingualism to our economy and the significant role it plays in driving private sector investment in New Brunswick. We are pleased to see these organizations working together on this important initiative.

Backgrounder

Infographic Two Languages: It’s good for Business

Study Two Languages: It’s good for Business

For more information:

Hugues Beaulieu
Executive Director
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

Donald Hammond
Acting Vice President
Opportunities New Brunswick
506-238-4606
Donald.Hammond@onbcanada.ca
Adrienne O’Pray
President & CEO
New Brunswick Business Council
506-962-2575
adrienne.opray@nbbc-cenb.ca

Thomas Raffy
CEO
Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick
506-857-3143
thomas@cenb.com

April 12, 2019

Message from the Commissioner of Official Languages on the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the New Brunswick Official Languages Act

Fifty years ago, New Brunswick became an officially bilingual province. A law was passed and a movement of equality was launched. The Official Languages Act has transformed this province.

I was a young adult in 1969, and I can attest to the tremendous progress we have made. In this province today, public services are generally provided in both official languages. Our two linguistic communities have distinct institutions to ensure their development. Anglophones and Francophones are present in all areas of activity and at all levels of responsibility, and the bilingual nature of our province generates significant economic benefits for all. So much has been accomplished in this half century!

This fiftieth anniversary must first be an opportunity to pay tribute to visionaries: premiers Louis J. Robichaud and Richard Hatfield. Both were driven by the same vision, that is, two equal, dynamic linguistic communities, living in harmony. Over the last five decades, English and French New Brunswickers have embraced this vision, and through their hard work have ensured that it has flourished. Today, we thank all these stakeholders, teachers, elected officials, civil servants, jurists and citizens who have greatly helped to make this noble project a reality.

A sign of respect, a symbol of equality, and an instrument of unity, the Official Languages Act has contributed to make our province a great place to live. Although some challenges remain, our past successes give us the greatest hopes for the future.

New Brunswick is Canada's only officially bilingual province. We must continue to be a model for our country.

We have come a long way and together, we will go further. Happy 50th anniversary!

Michel A. Carrier, Q.C.

June 20, 2018

Annual Report 2017-2018

Fredericton, June 20, 2018 – The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont, recommends establishing an Official Languages Secretariat to support the Premier in carrying out his primary responsibility, the administration of the Official Languages Act (OLA), as provided for in section 2 of this Act.

Commissioner d’Entremont made this recommendation following an investigation into the government’s Plan on Official Languages. The investigation was launched after the Premier submitted his first evaluation report on the Plan in March 2017. The Office of the Commissioner concluded that the Plan, which must ensure compliance with the OLA, was not achieving the objectives established by the Act.

“The government plan is yielding very few concrete results,” Katherine d’Entremont said. “Our investigation revealed a sizeable obstacle to implementing the Plan: the lack of an adequate structure and adequate resources to assist the Premier in the administration of the Act, including the Plan on Official Languages. On the one hand, there is no official languages department or secretariat, and therefore no deputy minister whose primary responsibility is official languages. Yet there are deputy minister or assistant deputy minister positions for specific areas such as Corporate Communications, Special Initiatives, and Women’s Equality. On the other hand, there are lower-level public servants in charge of various aspects of official languages in three different departments: Executive Council Office, Treasury Board, and Service New Brunswick. It is therefore not surprising that the government is having difficulty implementing the Plan and complying with the OLA.”

In its report, the Office of the Commissioner highlights that the government is indeed able to equip itself with structures and methods to achieve specific objectives. The Office of the Commissioner gives the example of the Office of Strategy Management, a component of the Executive Council Office, which supports the work of a vast network of public servants, known as champions, who work on achieving strategic government objectives.

“The size and scope of the strategic management measures used by the government strongly contrast with the weaker measures used to implement the government’s Plan on Official Languages and ensure compliance with the OLA,” the Commissioner added. “Yet New Brunswick’s language obligations are enshrined in the Canadian Constitution, which is not the case for management objectives. New Brunswick must adopt an appropriate structure to comply with the OLA and ensure the implementation of the Plan on Official Languages.”

Update on the Vitality of Official Languages

The 2017-2018 Annual Report of the Office of the Commissioner also presents the highlights of a study on the vitality of French and English in New Brunswick, prepared for the Office of the Commissioner by the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities (CIRLM). Some worrying trends for the French language emerge from this study.

• The percentage of New Brunswickers whose mother tongue is French reached a low of 31.9% in 2016, compared to 33.8% in 1971, while the percentage of people whose mother tongue is English has remained stable at approximately 65% of the population since 1971.
• The unequal dynamic between the minority language and the majority language favours the anglicization of some Francophones. For example, 6.6% of Francophones no longer spoke their mother tongue regularly at home in 2016, compared to only 0.7% of Anglophones. The anglicization of Francophones, which was 5.8 % in 2006, has therefore increased over the last 10 years.
• Less than half (46.5%) of public servants who lived in French also spoke it most often at work in 2016. By comparison, nearly all public servants (95%) who lived in English also spoke it most often at work in 2016.
• In 2016, about one in 10 recent immigrants (11.4%) had French as their first official language spoken, while 7 out of 10 (72.0%) had English as their first official language spoken.

The highlights also include an encouraging sign for the French language. Francophones in mixed couples, particularly mothers, are increasingly passing on French to their children. It is now more than half (52.8%) of children with Francophone mothers in mixed couples who have French as their mother tongue, up from 43.8% in 2001.

“The future vitality of the French language in New Brunswick is far from assured,” continued Commissioner d’Entremont. “The CIRLM study shows us that the future of the language depends on many interconnected factors. Effective and coordinated action must be taken on all of these vitality factors to ensure the future of the French language in New Brunswick.”

Complaints and Investigations

The Office of the Commissioner received 79 admissible complaints in fiscal year 2017-2018. Of this number, 64 complaints concerned services in French, and 15 were about services in English. Furthermore, two investigations were launched on the Commissioner’s own initiative: one on the government’s Plan on Official Languages (completed); the other on the administration of the OLA in nursing homes in the province (underway).

Final Annual Report by Commissioner d’Entremont

Katherine d’Entremont presented her fifth and final annual report. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the OLA, Commissioner d’Entremont states that New Brunswick has reached a crossroads.

“Complying with the OLA, ensuring the vitality of the French language, promoting the use of both official languages at work, maintaining the demographic weight of the two official linguistic communities, taking advantage of our bilingualism, these are all objectives that must be achieved in the nation’s only officially bilingual province. For this to happen, New Brunswick must firmly commit to the pursuit of progress. We first need strong leadership. There then needs to be a coordinated strategy, because the challenges are too big and too intrinsically linked for a decentralized approach. Lastly, appropriate human and financial resources are required. New Brunswick can, and must take action to achieve this great societal project: the equality of our two official languages and communities.’’

For more information:
Hugues Beaulieu
Executive Director
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506 444-4229

2017-2018 Annual Report
Backgrounder

Recommendations of the Commissioner of Official Languages following her investigation of the Plan on Official Languages

Having completed this investigation, the Commissioner makes the following recommendations:

That an Official Languages Secretariat be established. It must:

• be placed directly under the authority of the Clerk of the Executive Council and Head of the Civil Service;
• be headed by someone with Deputy Minister status; and
• have an appropriate budget and staff with respect to its responsibilities of supporting the Premier in his primary responsibility of administering the Official Languages Act.

That the Official Languages Secretariat have the following responsibilities:

• general supervision of the administration of the OLA;
• coordination of the mandatory review process of the OLA;
• development, review, supervision, and evaluation of the Official Languages Implementation Plan;
• provision of advice to all parts of the Public Service on the application of the OLA;
• development and monitoring of the application of the Language of Work Policy and Language of Service Policy;
• compilation and publication of statistical data to measure the progress towards the equality of use of English and French within the different Parts of the Public Service; and
• the preparation of an annual report on the state of official languages in New Brunswick.

Highlights of the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities study

EVOLUTION OF THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: STABILITY OF ENGLISH,
BUT A SLOW DECLINE OF FRENCH

• With regard to the evolution of the relative share of the official languages, there is generally a stabilization of the English language, but a slow decline of the French language.
• We continue to witness the slow decline in the relative weight of the French-language community. The percentage of New Brunswickers whose mother tongue is French reached a low of 31.9% in 2016, compared to 33.8% in 1971, while the percentage of people whose mother tongue is English has remained stable at approximately 65% of the population since 1971.
• There is a decline in the use of French at home, while the use of English is increasing. The use of French most often at home has decreased by almost 3 percentage points since 1981 to 28.6%, while the use of English most often has increased by two percentage points to 69.5%.
• The percentage of people who regularly use a second language at home has been increasing, regardless of language, since at least 2001.
• Immigration and the anglicization of immigrants and their children have disproportionately benefited the English-language community. The anglicization of some Francophones has also favoured the preservation of English.

THE LANGUAGES USED AT HOME AND THEIR TRANSMISSION:
ANGLICIZATION ON THE RISE, BUT SOME ENCOURAGING SIGNS FOR FRENCH

A slight decline in the retention of French at home

• Fewer than 9 in 10 Francophones (86.8%) spoke their mother tongue most often at home compared to almost all Anglophones (98.5%).
• The unequal dynamic between the minority language and the majority language favours the anglicization of some Francophones. For example, 6.6% of Francophones no longer spoke their mother tongue regularly at home in 2016, compared to only 0.7% of Anglophones. The anglicization of Francophones, which was 5.8 % in 2006, has therefore increased over the last 10 years.
• The retention of French decreases with age and over time, so that the minority language slowly takes a back seat for some Francophones, who use it only regularly instead of speaking it most often at home. French took a back seat at home for 8.3% of Francophones aged 25 to 44 in 2016.

The transmission of languages in mixed couples: half of Francophone mothers pass on French

• Mixed-couple parents pass on much less French than those with the same mother tongue. Only 4 out of 10 children from mixed couples in which only one spouse was Francophone had French as their mother tongue in 2016.
• Increasingly, Francophones in mixed couples, particularly mothers, are passing on French to their children. It is now more than half (52.8%) of children with Francophone mothers in mixed couples who have French as their mother tongue, up from 43.8% in 2001. Therefore, there is a noticeable increase in the transmission of French in mixed couples, especially those where the mother is Francophone, which indicates an improvement in the status of the minority language over time. However, the gap persists compared to English, and the transmission dynamics are still unequal between the province’s official languages.

THE VITALITY OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGES:
THE GAP BETWEEN ENGLISH AND FRENCH CONTINUES TO WIDEN

• There were 7% more people who spoke English most often at home in 2016 than there were English mother-tongue speakers in the province. However, there were 11% fewer people who spoke French most often at home than people whose mother tongue was French.
• There were 18% more people who spoke English at least regularly at home than people whose mother tongue was English in the province in 2016. In comparison, there were only 2% more people who spoke French at least regularly at home than there were people whose mother tongue was French.
• Both indices show that the vitality of both official languages remains uneven, to the advantage of English. The vitality gap between the two official languages continues to widen. Over a period of 35 years, the vitality gap between French and English mainly spoken at home has increased from 11 to 18 points.

INDIVIDUAL BILINGUALISM HAS STAGNATED FOR MORE THAN A DECADE

• Nearly 250,000 people declared themselves bilingual (English-French) in New Brunswick in 2016, one-third (33.9%) of the province’s population.
• New Brunswick had the lowest growth in the number of bilingual persons (1.7%) of all Canadian provinces between 2011 and 2016, with a national average of 7.3% over the same period. This is likely a consequence of the slight decrease in the province’s population, the decline in access to immersion programs since 2008, and the cyclical inter-provincial migrations, which are more likely to affect bilingual individuals in the province at the beginning and end of their careers during an economic slowdown like the one that followed the 2008-2009 recession. Further research would be required to confirm this.
• The bilingualism rate has been stagnating at 33% in New Brunswick for about 15 years. Encouragingly, we note a slight increase (+0.7 percentage point) in the bilingualism rate between 2011 and 2016.
• Francophones accounted for two-thirds (66.7%) of bilingual New Brunswickers in 2016, while Anglophones accounted for almost one-third (29.0%).
• The past increase in bilingualism among Anglophones is largely attributable to the fact that younger generations born after the mid-1960s had access to immersion programs. Immersion programs have had a lasting effect on the bilingualism of the English-language community and, consequently, on that of New Brunswick as a whole.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGES IN THE WORKPLACE

Official languages in the New Brunswick job market

• The use of English in the New Brunswick workplace has been steadily increasing since 2001 (+1.3 percentage points), while the use of French has slightly decreased (-0.3) compared to 2001. In 2016, 89.0% of New Brunswickers spoke English at least regularly at work, compared to 36.7% who spoke French.
• The use of official languages varies by economic sector. The use of French most often was significantly higher in agriculture, forestry, and fishing (37.1%), manufacturing (33.0%), educational services (31.6%) and health care and social assistance (28.3%).
• In contrast, the main use of English was higher in the public service (90.5%), real estate (85.8%) and administrative (83.8%) sectors, wholesaling (83.8%), transportation and warehousing (83.2%), information and cultural industries (80.7%) and manufacturing subsectors of paper (83.7%), oil and gas extraction (96.7%) and its support activities (93.8%), the latter two subsectors including workers with circular migrations in the West.
• Bilingualism at work was higher in the public service (41.2%), finance and insurance (34.4%) and retail (27.5%) sectors, as well as in the subsectors of air transportation (42.2%) and rail (38.7%), heritage institutions (42.6%), hospitals (41.9%) and outpatient care services (33.9%).

• To what extent do New Brunswickers who live most often in French at home also work most often in the minority language? Almost 70% of New Brunswick Francophones (69.4%) who spoke French most often at home also spoke it most often at work in 2016.

Increasing bilingualism in the public sector

• The use of French in the various levels of the public sector has increased significantly thanks to the rise of bilingualism among public servants. Bilingualism at work among public sector employees in the province went from 35.5% in 2001 to 41.2% in 2016.
• The use of official languages varies by level of government and occupation. The higher the level of government, the more employees spoke mainly English, to the detriment of French. This hierarchical linguistic division is also found among the occupations within the public service.
• To what extent do New Brunswick public servants who live primarily in French at home also work most often in the minority language? Less than half (46.5%) of public servants who lived in French also spoke it most often at work in 2016 (percentages being 72.7% for municipal public servants, 53.8% for provincial ones and only 35.6% for federal public servants). Many had to work most often in the majority language before they could speak the language of their choice. By comparison, nearly all public servants (95%) who lived in English also spoke it most often at work in 2016, (percentages being 96.8% for municipal public servants, 94.8% for provincial ones and 94.4% for federal public servants).

IMMIGRATION AND OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

Immigration in Atlantic Canada and in New Brunswick

• More and more immigrants are settling in the Atlantic Provinces and New Brunswick, although immigration rates are among the lowest in Canada. In New Brunswick, the recent surge in immigration helped push the provincial immigration rate up from 3.1% in 2001 to 4.6% in 2016.

An increase in the number of Francophone immigrants, despite stagnation in the number of newcomers

• In 2016, immigration rates in the two official language communities were 5.5% for the Anglophone majority, but only 2% for the Francophone minority.
• Close to 1 in 10 (9.6%) immigrants living in New Brunswick in 2016 had French as their mother tongue, compared to 4 in 10 (41.6%) whose mother tongue was English. The proportion of immigrants whose mother tongue is French has been stable since 2001, thanks to a growth in Francophone populations that has been proportional to the growth of the province’s total immigrant population. The proportion of immigrants whose mother tongue was English, however, declined, reaching 41.6% in 2016, compared to 60.6% in 2001, due to the increase in the number of non-official language immigrants.
• There was a significant increase (+ 29%) in the number of immigrants whose mother tongue was French (+730), going from 2,530 in 2011 to 3,260 in 2016. This net increase in the balance of immigrants whose mother tongue is French in the province could be explained by the arrival of new Francophone immigrants directly from abroad, but also from other provinces, and above all by a better retention of Francophone immigrants already settled in the province.
• In 2016, there was only a slight increase in the number of Francophone immigrants recently arriving from abroad. These recent immigrants whose mother tongue is French, however, represented more than a quarter (27.5%) of recent immigrants whose mother tongue was official in the province, a percentage that, for the first time, is approaching the demographic weight of the Francophone community in New Brunswick.

Integration of immigrants into the official language communities

• The vast majority (94.7%) of New Brunswick residents who were born abroad could conduct a conversation in English or French in 2016. Only 5.4% of immigrants reported that they did not know one of the province’s official languages. In fact, in 2016, 91.8% of the province’s foreign-born population knew English, compared to only 24.8% who knew French.
• The average age of immigrants is lower than the average provincial age, which helps stabilize the youth population despite the aging of the population. For example, immigrants make up only 2% of Francophones in New Brunswick, but 6.7% of French-mother-tongue children in the province are children of immigrants. By comparison, Anglophone immigrants represent 5.5% of Anglophones, but almost 10% (9.6%) of Anglophone children in New Brunswick are of immigrant origin.
• When publishing the 2016 Census data, Statistics Canada noted that outside of Quebec, immigrants in New Brunswick live the most in French, although there are 5 times more immigrants who speak English (62.3%) most often at home, with only 12.0% who speak French most often at home.
• In 2016, about 1 in 10 recent immigrants (11.4%) had French as their first official language spoken, while 7 out of 10 (72.0%) had English as their first official language spoken.

April 13, 2018

Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick Announces Retirement

Fredericton, April 13, 2018 – New Brunswick’s Commissioner of Official Languages, Katherine d’Entremont, announced her retirement today effective July 22, 2018.

In a letter informing the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of her decision, Ms. d’Entremont stated that following a 37-year public service career, the last five of which have been as Commissioner, it is time for other pursuits.

‘’I wish to express my appreciation to all New Brunswickers who call on the services of the Office”, said Commissioner d’Entremont. “Their complaints allow us to highlight problems with the administration of the Official Languages Act and make recommendations aimed at ensuring public services of equal quality in both official languages.”

Katherine d’Entremont was appointed Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick in June 2013. She will present her fifth and final Annual Report in June 2018.

“Protecting and promoting New Brunswickers’ language rights has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career,” d’Entremont continued. “I am proud to have contributed to the equality of our two official languages and our two linguistic communities, a most noble societal project.’’

Note:
The Commissioner will not grant end of mandate interviews to the media prior to the tabling of the office’s 2017-2018 Annual Report, planned for June 2018.

Media Contact

Hugues Beaulieu
Executive Director
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

September 1, 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.

***

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

June 22, 2017

Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick tables fourth Annual Report

June 22, 2017 – The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont, today tabled her fourth Annual Report. Bilingualism among senior public servants is one of the central themes of the document.

Study on the use of French in communications between Francophone organizations and municipalities and senior management of government departments and agencies

Commissioner d’Entremont presents the results of a study done by the Office of the Commissioner on the use of French in communications between Francophone organizations and municipalities and senior management of government departments and agencies. A survey of representatives of Francophone organizations and municipalities done as part of the study shows that only 4 respondents in 21 said that French was always used at meetings with senior public servants.

Commissioner d’Entremont considers these results unacceptable in the only officially bilingual province in Canada. Ms. d’Entremont is therefore urging the provincial government to act on her 2015 recommendations that bilingualism be a requirement for new appointments to senior management positions.

Legislative Officers

The 2016-2017 annual report of the Office of the Commissioner presents a summary of an investigation carried out as a follow-up to a complaint regarding the absence of a bilingualism requirement in three competition advertisements for legislative officer positions, including the Chief Electoral Officer.

The Commissioner’s analysis of the roles and responsibilities of these officers confirms the absolute necessity that those appointed to these positions be bilingual. The Commissioner points out that the responses provided by the provincial government to justify the absence of a bilingualism requirement are equivalent to denying the principle of equality of the two official languages and the two linguistic communities of New Brunswick.

To ensure the appointment of a bilingual person to a legislative officer position, Commissioner d’Entremont recommends a measure similar to the one put in place by the Parliament of Canada in 2013, namely, the adoption of an act requiring knowledge of English and French to be appointed to a legislative officer position. (It should be noted that this investigation did not pertain to the results of the recruitment process. The Commissioner therefore did not seek to determine the bilingual capacity of the individuals appointed to these positions.)

Linguistic obligations of cities, municipalities, and regional service commissions

The cities of New Brunswick, as well as eight municipalities and eight regional service commissions have linguistic obligations under the Official Languages Act.

The 2016-2017 annual report of the Office of the Commissioner outlines the results of the very first comprehensive audit of their compliance with the Act.

Despite a few failures to obtain service in English and French, the results of the audit tend to show that the public can generally obtain municipal or regional services in the official language of their choice. However, service in English is often better than service in French.

Commissioner d’Entremont makes five recommendations to improve and expand municipal and regional services in both official languages.

Chronic underfunding of the Office of the Commissioner

In her annual report, Commissioner d’Entremont highlights that the budget of the Office of the Commissioner has increased by 3.6% over the past 15 years while that of the Legislative Assembly has increased by 52.4%. In this regard, Ms. d’Entremont deplores the fact that the broadening of the Commissioner’s investigation mandate to include some 40 professional associations has not been accompanied by an increase in the operating budget.

For Commissioner d’Entremont, the chronic underfunding of the Office of the Commissioner compromises the protection of the language rights of all New Brunswickers.

Concerted approach to Francophone immigration

In the report, Commissioner d’Entremont highlights the recent signing of a Canada – New Brunswick immigration agreement that includes an annex on Francophone immigration, the first of its kind. The annex outlines how Canada and New Brunswick will work together to attract and retain French-speaking immigrants to maintain the linguistic makeup of the province. 

Commissioner d’Entremont, who has been recommending such a measure for a number of years, is pleased with the signing of the Francophone immigration annex.

Complaints received by the Office of the Commissioner

Between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, the Office of the Commissioner received 346 complaints. Of that number, 114 were admissible, with 92 based on lack of service in French and 22 on lack of service in English. There was an increase of 81% in admissible complaints over last year.

For further 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.

 

Highlights of the 2016-2017 Annual Report of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick

Highlights of the study on the use of French in communications between Francophone organizations and municipalities and senior management of government departments and agencies

Use of French

  • The vast majority of survey respondents, i.e., 17 out of 21, said they wished French was used more at meetings with senior public servants. That wish is not surprising given that only four respondents said French was always used at meetings with senior management.
     
  • There is some bilingual capacity within the senior public service. Half of the respondents said that French was used most of the time, whereas a quarter indicated that French was often or sometimes used during meetings with senior public servants.

Use of both official languages

  • Eleven respondents out of 21 reported meetings with senior public servants at which English and French were used often or sometimes. However, only four respondents have attended bilingual meetings where simultaneous interpretation was available.
  • In the absence of simultaneous interpretation, various practices were used. In some cases, the respondents would express themselves in French, and the senior public servants would reply in English. In other cases, a bilingual public servant would translate what the participants said into the other language (generally English). Some respondents said they would repeat in English what they had first said in French. Others spoke partly in English when the conversation pertained to technical matters.
     
  • The use of both languages at a meeting where simultaneous interpretation was not available was often a prelude to a meeting that would ultimately take place in English only. It was not unusual for the respondents to switch to English because the use of both languages slows down communications since anything said in French has to be translated into English.

Use of English

  • Nearly half the respondents said that English was often or sometimes the only language used at meetings with senior public servants.

Communication that is not clear

  • A number of respondents expressed concerns about the clarity of their exchanges with senior public servants. These concerns arise from two findings: first, some senior public servants who say they are bilingual are clearly not sufficiently proficient in French; second, a number of respondents were aware that the use of English limits their ability to express themselves with all the subtlety required by the complexity of the issues they are dealing with.

Obstacles to the use of French

  • The unilingualism of a senior public servant or a minister is definitely the main obstacle to the use of French at meetings with senior management. However, it is not the only one. Half of the respondents said that the level of French-language proficiency among bilingual senior public servants was not sufficient for in-depth discussions in French, which would result in their using English. Furthermore, a quarter of the respondents said that the use of French could result in the exclusion from meetings of senior public servants responsible for a particular issue, thus affecting discussion quality. In some cases, despite the presence of bilingual senior public servants, the presence of other unilingual Anglophone stakeholders (e.g., experts in a particular field) would prompt the group, often a working group, to use English.

Bilingualism among senior public servants

  • The respondents established a direct link between unilingualism among senior public servants and the inability to use French at meetings. Language training and a bilingualism requirement for senior management positions were the main means suggested for increasing the use of French.
     
  • Most respondents did not expect ministers to be bilingual. However, according to them, a minister’s unilingualism should not prevent the representatives of organizations from expressing themselves in French.

 

Highlights of the findings of the compliance audit of cities, municipalities and regional service commissions (RSCs) with the Official Languages Act

Audit of the delivery of services in person, by telephone and by email
(In total, 15 audits were done with each city and municipality in each language; 5 audits were done with each commission in each language.) 

  • The auditors usually obtained service in the official language of their choice. However, the service in English was often superior to the service in French in terms of the time it took to obtain service, the quality of written communications (emails), the frequency of failures to receive service, and the level of service delivery. 
     
  • The number of failures to receive service in the auditors’ choice of official language was low. In total, there were five failures during the 240 audits conducted in French with cities and municipalities. Two failures occurred during an audit in person at the city halls of Fredericton (1) and Miramichi (1), two failures occurred during a telephone call to the Saint John city hall (1) and the Rexton town hall (1), and one failure occurred during an audit conducted by email with the city of Moncton (1). 
     
  • There was only one failure to receive service in English, which occurred during an audit in person at the Atholville town hall.
     
  • No failures occurred during the audits of the regional service commissions (RSCs).
     
  • The active offer of service, i.e., greeting extended to the public in both official languages, is not a widespread practice. In fact, during the audits in person, the auditors were greeted in both official languages less than once out of every two times.

Audit of websites and social media

  • All of the cities, municipalities and RSCs respect the obligation to post information in both official languages on their websites.  However, major problems with respect to similarity of content between English and French web pages were noted for three cities (Edmundston, Miramichi and Saint John), one municipality (Eel River Crossing), and two RSCs (Greater Miramichi and Fundy).
     
  • With respect to posts on social media (Facebook and Twitter), the rate of posts in both official languages was relatively high. However, a number of cities, municipalities and RSCs had not published all of the posts audited in English and French.

Audit of official documents adopted or published between November 21, 2015 and November 21, 2016

  • All of the cities, except Miramichi, and all of the municipalities, except Charlo, have perfect (100%) or very high (95%) scores for the translation of official documents adopted or published during the audit period.
     
  • All of the RSCs, except the Fundy, Northwest and Greater Miramichi RSCs, had perfect (100%) or very high (98%) scores for the translation of official documents adopted or published during the audit period.

Cities, Municipalities and RSCs with Language Obligations under the Official Languages Act

Cities

Municipalities

(Municipalities with an official language minority population of at least 20% of the total population)

        Regional Service Commissions (RSCs)

(RSCs with language obligations are those serving an area whose official language minority population is at least 20% of the total population or that include a city or municipality subject to the OLA)

  • Bathurst
  • Campbellton
  • Dieppe
  • Edmundston
  • Fredericton
  • Miramichi
  • Moncton
  • Saint John
  • Atholville
  • Charlo
  • Dalhousie
  • Eel River Crossing
  • Rexton
  • Richibucto
  • Shediac
  • Tide Head
  • Northwest RSC
  • Restigouche RSC
  • Chaleur RSC
  • Greater Miramichi RSC
  • Kent RSC
  • Southeast RSC  
  • Fundy RSC
  • RSC 11  

 

March 31, 2017

Languages commissioners call for concrete measures for Francophone immigration

Moncton, New Brunswick – March 31, 2017 – The Interim Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Ghislaine Saikaley, along with her New Brunswick counterpart, Katherine d’Entremont, and the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario, François Boileau, reiterated today the importance and urgency of implementing concrete measures to foster immigration to Francophone minority communities.

Moncton, New Brunswick – March 31, 2017 – The Interim Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Ghislaine Saikaley, along with her New Brunswick counterpart, Katherine d’Entremont, and the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario, François Boileau, reiterated today the importance and urgency of implementing concrete measures to foster immigration to Francophone minority communities. 

The languages commissioners joined the ministers responsible for the Canadian Francophonie and the ministers responsible for immigration at a federal-provincial-territorial forum on Francophone immigration, organized by the Ministerial Conference on the Canadian Francophonie, in Moncton on March 30 and 31, 2017.

“It is essential for federal, provincial and territorial governments to step up their efforts to increase immigration to Francophone communities because the time to act is now and results have been slow to materialize. This ministerial forum is a unique opportunity to coordinate federal strategies with those of the provinces and territories,” said Mrs. Saikaley.

Promising initiatives have been introduced since the languages commissioners’ joint interventions in 2014. The implementation of the Mobilité francophone program in June 2016 is a positive step, as is the leadership shown by the provinces and territories last July when the premiers asked the federal government to raise Francophone immigration rates outside Quebec.

“Without implementing concrete action plans and timelines, we will never be able to achieve the national Francophone immigration target, especially in Ontario. It is therefore crucial for the different levels of government to join efforts and immediately clear the way for the development and implementation of pragmatic and measurable solutions,” added Mr. Boileau.

Demographic projections recently published by Statistics Canada on the ethnocultural and linguistic composition of the Canadian population through 2036 show the importance of attaining minority official-language immigration objectives across the country.

“The Anglophone and Francophone communities of New Brunswick have equal constitutional status. Consequently, the immigration policies and programs of both levels of government must ensure the demographic weight of the Francophone community, which makes up one third of the population, is maintained,” said Ms. d’Entremont. “To do this, increased cooperation between both levels of government is essential.”

The languages ombudsmen believe that the four principles set out in 2014 to guide governments’ actions in terms of immigration are still pertinent:

  • Immigration must help maintain, and even increase, the demographic weight of Francophone minority communities in Canada.
  • Federal, provincial and territorial immigration policies and programs must be designed and tailored to address Francophone immigrant recruitment, integration, training and retention needs specific to the different contexts of Francophone minority communities across Canada.
  • Strong federal-provincial-territorial-community partnerships and long-term strategies are needed to ensure that immigration supports the development and vitality of Francophone minority communities.
  • Governments must develop an evaluation and accountability framework to measure progress achieved and ensure attainment of immigration objectives in Francophone minority communities.

The commissioners also took the opportunity provided by this meeting to reiterate that the commitment of all levels of government is essential in this area of shared jurisdiction.

– 30 –

For further information or to schedule an interview with one of the commissioners, please contact:

Nelson Kalil
Manager, Strategic Communications and Media Relations
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
Telephone: 819-420-4714
Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368
Cell: 613-324-0999
E-mail: nelson.kalil@clo-ocol.gc.ca
Follow us: @OCOLCanada
www.officiallanguages.gc.ca

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
Telephone: 506-444-4229
Toll-free: 1-888-651-6444 (in New Brunswick only)
E-mail: hugues.beaulieu@gnb.ca
www.officiallanguages.nb.ca

Touria Karim
Lead, Strategic Communications
Office of the French Language Services Commissioner
Telephone: 416-847-1515, ext. 107
Toll-free: 1-866-246-5262
Cell: 416-906-7021
E-mail: touria.karim@flscontario.ca
Follow us: @FLSCOntario
www.flscontario.ca

 

February 20, 2017

Are you bilingual? That depends on the level required…

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

In this commentary, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Katherine d’Entremont, discusses the topic of second language competency levels. The Commissioner urges the provincial government to publish the required levels of language competency in all job postings for bilingual positions.

When a position requires bilingualism, there is a common misconception that it means a complete mastery of English and French. This is not the case. In fact, different positions require different levels of bilingualism. It is the nature of the job and the associated communication tasks that generally determine what is needed (speaking, reading, and writing) as well as the required proficiency levels in one or more of these categories. 

A matter of levels

The New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour (PETL) is responsible for evaluating the language proficiency of government employees as well as applicants for government positions. The Department uses a scale comprised of several levels to evaluate oral proficiency in each official language. Following is an overview of the main levels, summarized from government documents (see reference 1).

• At the Basic level (1), the individual can give simple directives and instructions. An office employee will be able to inform a resident that a program officer is absent and suggest another employee who can help.  

• At the Intermediate level (2), the individual can provide simple explanations and talk about past, present, and future events. For example, a manager will be able to explain the process to hire a temporary employee to a co-worker.

• At the Advanced level (3), the individual can provide detailed explanations and descriptions, defend an opinion, convey a point of view or justify an action. At this level, a senior official will be able to present the features of a new program to a group of people and answer their questions.

• Lastly, at the Superior level (4), the individual can persuade and negotiate and is able to use nuance and subtlety when speaking. For example, a lawyer will be able to defend his or her client in a legal proceeding and a director of human resources will be able to direct the bargaining team for a collective agreement. 

What is my level?

In New Brunswick, a person may obtain an evaluation of their second language proficiency by contacting Language Services at PETL (see reference 2). 

The oral proficiency evaluation assesses the general ability to communicate in professional and social situations. The evaluation method is the same whether it be for the evaluation of French or English. It consists of a 20 to 40 minute telephone conversation between the person being evaluated and a certified evaluator. During the conversation, the evaluator gradually increases the level of difficulty of the conversation until the competency level is reached of the person being evaluated. The individual evaluated then receives a certificate indicating the level of proficiency attained. 

Second language proficiency levels for immersion and intensive French students

In the school system, the scale of levels used in the oral proficiency assessment of students enrolled in French immersion and intensive French is very similar to the PETL scale described above.

Following the assessment, each student receives a certificate which specifies the level of second-language proficiency he or she has achieved. In other words, this certificate does not indicate by a simple ‘’yes’’ or ‘’no’’ – if the student is bilingual. 

The second-language proficiency certificate a student receives certainly does not mark the end of their second-language learning. In fact, among high school graduates who go on to pursue their studies, many of them also recognize the importance of continuing to improve their second language proficiency, whether at college, university or through other life pursuits. With a good grounding in their second language acquired in school coupled with continuous learning in the years that follow, they are well positioned to qualify for jobs that require competency in both official languages, in both public and private sectors.  

Bilingual government jobs: how bilingual is bilingual enough?

A few years ago the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick conducted a study on the recruitment of bilingual staff in the provincial public service (see reference 3). At that time, we highlighted that provincial government departments do not publish the required levels of language proficiency in ads for jobs that require bilingualism, while all other essential qualifications are clearly stated in the ads. This practice is perplexing to say the least. By not publishing the level of bilingualism required, applicants are not able to determine for themselves whether they have the required levels of language proficiency. We often hear of candidates who would have the required language proficiency but decide not to apply because they assume, often wrongly, that they are not ‘’bilingual enough’’. Not publishing the level of bilingualism required for bilingual positions is like expecting someone to write an exam without telling them what the pass mark is.

The current practice of not publishing the required levels of bilingualism undermines the transparency of the recruitment process and casts doubt on its fairness. Some may wonder whether the required proficiency levels will be set or adjusted once applications have been received. Others may believe that the language proficiency requirements might be set to suit a particular applicant who satisfies most of the job requirements but does not have the required level of second-language proficiency. 

In the federal public service, the required levels of proficiency in each of the two official languages are clearly stated in job postings. Therefore, the rules are clear. It is high time for the government of New Brunswick to do the same.

 

References

1, 2 Language Testing – Website of the New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour

3 Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, 2013-2014 Annual Report, pages

November 14, 2016

Commissioner of Official Languages’ Role Explained

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

In 2002, Members of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick unanimously adopted a new Official Languages Act. This Act created the position of Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, and confers on me as Commissioner a dual mandate. First, I must investigate, report on, and make recommendations with regard to compliance with the Act. Second, I must promote the advancement of both official languages in the province.

This text provides a summary of how the Office of the Commissioner carries out this dual mandate. It 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.”

Compliance with the Act 

Many people describe the Commissioner of Official Languages as the guardian of language rights. They are right. I must report to the Legislative Assembly on the extent to which provincial institutions are living up to their obligations under the Official Languages Act.

The investigations we conduct are our primary means of ensuring that the language rights of New Brunswickers are upheld. Indeed, they enable us to identify the causes of situations of non-compliance with the Act and to recommend measures to avoid their recurrence.

Most investigations are undertaken as a result of public complaints. Last year, about one-third of admissible complaints pertained to a lack of services in English and two-thirds, to a lack of services in French.

We always conduct our investigations in a spirit of collaboration, and as a general rule, institutions cooperate with us and respond positively to our recommendations. However, there are exceptions. Institutions sometimes allow complaints to accumulate or delay in taking corrective action to comply with the Act. That is why, in 2013, MLAs amended the Act to give the Commissioner the authority to publish investigation reports, thereby shining a light on recurring situations of non-compliance with the Act.    

Principle of equality: at the heart of our recommendations

Our investigation reports often include recommendations. It should be noted here that the recommendations we make are always realistic and pragmatic to ensure they can be implemented by institutions. Recommendations made by the Commissioner’s office are aimed at guaranteeing that all citizens are able to receive public services in the official language of their choice. This is the promise of the Official Languages Act, a promise also set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Charter includes a number of provisions specific to New Brunswick. One such provision is the principle of the equality of New Brunswick’s two official languages and two official linguistic communities.

This principle of equality is fundamental. It means that public services must be of equal quality in English and in French. In other words, it is unacceptable to provide members of one of the province’s official linguistic communities with a service of lesser quality.   

All recommendations made by the Commissioner’s office are therefore intended to ensure compliance with the fundamental principle of equality as outlined in the Charter.   

The other key element of our mandate: promotion

As Commissioner, I must “promote the advancement of both official languages.” Advancing towards what? Towards the equality of our two official languages. It should be noted that the Charter affirms “the authority of the Legislature and Government of New Brunswick to advance the status, rights and privileges” of our two languages.  

My promotional mandate therefore falls within the context of advancing towards real equality between our two languages and our two official linguistic communities.

Since becoming Commissioner in 2013, we have carried out many promotional activities. Among other initiatives, we have:

• informed New Brunswickers of their language rights and encouraged them to exercise those rights by producing six fact sheets on language rights;

• shed light on the benefits and economic potential of bilingualism in New Brunswick by publishing the first ever study on this topic: Two Languages: It’s Good for Business;

• highlighted inspiring practices by provincial employees in the delivery of bilingual services in each of our last three annual reports;

• informed political leaders and the public about the status of bilingualism in the province by publishing a study on the evolution of bilingualism in New Brunswick;

• informed the public about official bilingualism by publishing one of the first texts intended to dispel the myths surrounding official languages in all of the province’s daily newspapers;

• given a number of speeches at various pan-Canadian events in order to promote the unique character of New Brunswick as the only officially bilingual province.

Promoting the advancement of our two official languages is something I feel very strongly about. Naturally, our promotional activities are constrained by the financial resources available to us. 

Accountability

As with other officers of the Legislative Assembly, the position I hold is independent of the government. However, I am held accountable for my work. Every year, I must prepare and submit to the Legislative Assembly, a report on the activities of the Commissioner’s office. Also, over the past few years, I have appeared several times before committees of the Legislative Assembly.

A few months ago, I asked to present our office’s 2015-2016 annual report to an open meeting of the legislative committee charged with reviewing the work of legislative officers. That request was granted, and on June 21, 2016, I had the opportunity to discuss a number of issues pertaining to my mandate and respond to questions posed by MLAs from the three political parties. During my appearance at the June meeting, I stated that I wished to have regular meetings with this committee in order to report on my work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 18, 2016

Language obligations of professional associations

Fredericton, October 18, 2016 – As of July 1, 2016, over 40 associations that regulate a profession in New Brunswick must provide their services in English and in French. A new factsheet by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages describes the language rights of people who communicate with these associations.

“Professional associations play a fundamental role: they protect the public by regulating and supervising the exercise of professions”, said Official Languages Commissioner Katherine d’Entremont. “In a province with two official linguistic communities, professional associations must carry out this role in both official languages. That is why members of the Legislative Assembly decided to subject professional associations to the Official Languages Act.”

The factsheet indicates that association members and the public have the right to communicate with professional associations and to receive services in the official language of their choice. Examples of services provided by professional associations are presented in the factsheet. The document also specifies that associations must inform their members and the public that their services are available in both languages (commonly referred to as the active offer of service).In addition, a person cannot be placed at a disadvantage because he or she chooses one official language rather than the other to satisfy a requirement of a professional association, such as writing an exam.

The factsheet lists 43 professional associations that have language obligations under the Act. These include the New Brunswick Real Estate Association, the Association of New Brunswick Land Surveyors, the New Brunswick College of Dental Hygienists, the Law Society of New Brunswick as well as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick.

The language obligations of professional associations stem from changes to the Official Languages Act adopted by the Members of the Legislative Assembly in 2013 and 2015, which came into effect this past July. Professional associations therefore had a three-year transition period to prepare for their new language obligations.

With the language obligations of professional associations coming into force on July 1st, 2016, the Commissioner’s mandate was expanded to include oversight of these professional associations. “Anyone who believes that their language rights have not been respected by a body to which the Official Languages Act applies is invited to contact us,” d’Entremont continued. “Our investigations and recommendations help institutions improve their services in both official languages.”

The factsheet on professional associations is the sixth in a series on language rights in New Brunswick. Others on government services, health care, police services, justice, and municipal and regional services are also available on the Office of the Commissioner’s website, section My Rights. This initiative ties in with the Commissioner’s mandate to promote the advancement of both official languages. It 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.”

For more information, please contact:
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 Legislative Assembly. The Commissioner’s 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.