Commissioner of Official Languages Proposes Measures for Improving Delivery of Bilingual Services
Fredericton, June 17, 2014 – In her first annual report, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Katherine d’Entremont, presents five recommendations for improving the delivery of government services in both official languages. Specifically, d’Entremont proposes that the required levels of second-language proficiency for bilingual positions be more clearly defined and better monitored.
“Over the past few months, we have examined how the provincial government recruits and manages its human resources in order to deliver bilingual services to the public," the Commissioner said. “Our study points to serious deficiencies with respect to the identification of bilingual staffing needs, required levels of second-language proficiency, and the effectiveness of language training for civil servants. These deficiencies are often the cause of the complaints we receive and must be addressed.”
To provide the public with services in both languages, provincial departments form teams made up of unilingual and bilingual employees. However, according to the Commissioner’s study, the levels of second-language proficiency of bilingual employees are not clearly defined or monitored. “This situation compromises service quality," the Commissioner said. “The government must show more rigour.” The Commissioner’s study notes as well that the required level of second-language proficiency for a bilingual position is not indicated in the job posting. “How can a candidate determine whether he or she is qualified for a bilingual position without knowing the proficiency level required?” asks the Commissioner.
Official Languages and Health
The Commissioner’s annual report addresses a number of issues, including immigration, changes to the Official Languages Act, and access to health care in both official languages. The Commissioner comments on the results of the most recent acute care survey carried out by the New Brunswick Health Council.
Ms. d’Entremont believes that the two health authorities must step up their efforts in order to fully meet their linguistic obligations. The Commissioner is very concerned about the situation at hospitals in the Horizon Health Network. “In some facilities, access to health care in French is the exception rather that the rule,” the Commissioner explained. “This situation requires robust corrective measures.”
Government Plan on Official Languages
One chapter of the Commissioner’s annual report examines the Government Plan on Official Languages. Commissioner d’Entremont is disappointed with the lack of tangible results arising from this initiative. “The plan outlines important measures for ensuring better compliance with the Official Languages Act,” the Commissioner explained. “Yet one year following the initial expiration of the plan, the provincial government has very few results to present. There is reason to question the importance government attaches to this plan.”
Commissioner highlights inspiring practices
In addition, Katherine d’Entremont pays tribute to public servants and groups of employees who embody excellence in official bilingualism. The award recipients are as follows:
• Judge Yvette Finn
• Teachers’ collective agreement negotiating team
• Staff of the Policy and Planning Division of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
• Staff of the Financial and Consumer Services Commission
• Guylaine Godin, New Brunswick Internal Services Agency
• Cécile LePage and employees of the Policy and Planning Branch of the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture
“I congratulate these champions in the promotion of our two official languages, and I hope that by sharing their stories, they will be an inspiration for all public servants, our elected officials, and the general public,” said Commissioner d'Entremont.
The 2013-2014 annual report is available online.
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