Fredericton, October 27, 2021 – Official languages continue to be sidelined in communications related to COVID 19. That is one of the key findings of the 2020-2021 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Shirley MacLean. Her second report, released today, highlights the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, presents key developments in the area of official languages, reports on complaints received, and offers a series of case studies of complaints handled in 2020-2021.
“For a second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the delivery of services in our two official languages,” declared Commissioner MacLean. “The pandemic has disrupted the vast majority of government institutions in our province. These institutions have had to adapt their services and communicate with New Brunswickers at a pace never before seen. Unfortunately, in many cases, it was clear that official languages were an afterthought in these scenarios.”
During the period from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, the Office of the Commissioner received 230 complaints. Of these, 127 were admissible, 14 alleging lack of service in English and 113 alleging lack of service in French. This is the second-highest number of annual admissible complaints recorded since the Office of the Commissioner was created in 2003.
Some positive developments also took place during the period examined by the report:
- Two commissioners were appointed to oversee the process of reviewing New Brunswick’s Official Languages Act by December 31, 2021.
- A policy on government signage came into effect. This new policy takes into account the linguistic composition of New Brunswick’s various regions and presents the predominant language of the region first.
- The Francophone immigration rate continued to increase, reaching a new high of 27% of total applicants in 2020.
To illustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s efforts to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act, the report outlines a series of files handled during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. These include investigations, complaints resolved through the alternative resolution process, inadmissible complaints handled under the Commissioner’s promotional mandate, and an unfounded investigation.
“As Commissioner, my primary role is to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act and to see that our two linguistic communities are treated equally,” added Commissioner MacLean. “Even when we process a large number of complaints, I am pleased to see a spirit of collaboration and a deep respect for our two official languages and our two linguistic communities among the vast majority of our government institutions. After all, we are all seeking to understand and be understood.”
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444 (toll free)