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.
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:
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
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
Use of both official languages
Use of English
Communication that is not clear
Obstacles to the use of French
Bilingualism among senior public servants
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
Audit of websites and social media
Audit of official documents adopted or published between November 21, 2015 and November 21, 2016
Cities, Municipalities and RSCs with Language Obligations under the Official Languages Act
(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)