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:
506 444-4229 or 1 888 651-6444 (toll free)