Fredericton, November 18, 2008 – The Commissioner of Official Languages, Michel Carrier, has submitted his annual report for 2007-2008 to the Legislative Assembly, in accordance with the Official Languages Act (OLA).
During the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages handled 126 complaints and 30 requests for information. A total of 58 complaints were admissible, with 45 based on a lack of service in French and 13 based on a lack of service in English. Forty (40) complaints were deemed inadmissible because they did not come under the Commissioner’s authority or did not concern an institution within the meaning of the Act. Twenty-eight (28) complaints were referred to other institutions. A summary of complaints resolved during the year is included in the Annual Report.
In addition to descriptions of the complaints resolved during the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the report also includes details of investigations wherein the Commissioner provided recommendations urging institutions to act in order to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act.
While provincial institutions continue to collaborate with the Office of the Commissioner during investigations, they are not proactively working to fulfill their obligation to comply with the OLA and live up to their responsibility to take positive action to promote the cultural, economic, educational and social development of New Brunswick’s linguistic communities. Indeed, there has been no real response to the Commissioner’s recommendation in his 2004-2005 annual report that strategic plans must be developed and implemented in all provincial institutions. Despite the fact that the Commissioner has repeated this recommendation in each subsequent annual report, institutions have yet to take it seriously.
The Commissioner is also disappointed with the Department of Justice’s reaction to the issue of equal access to court decisions, orders or judgments. Almost two full years after the Commissioner submitted his recommendations in the matter, the Deputy Minister of Justice finally wrote to the Commissioner in May, 2008, to inform him that the Department considers that the current way of doing things regarding the language of court decisions, orders or judgments does not contravene the OLA and that the Department has no intention of referring the matter to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal, as per the Commissioner’s recommendation. The position finally taken by the Department of Justice, as well as its succinct response to an important investigation leaves the impression that the Department has done nothing to address the problem since it was first raised in 2003. “Given that the Department of Justice is responsible for the application of all New Brunswick’s laws, its attitude toward the Official Languages Act is perplexing and worrisome,” said the Commissioner.
As well, the Commissioner recommended that the province undertake an exhaustive study of its second-language training program with a specific examination of the possible reasons why the number of participants is so low as well as whether the program is achieving the desired results. He also recommended that the province come up with a plan to implement any needed improvements to this program, which is essential to the delivery of government services in both official languages.
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The report is also available online at www.officiallanguages.nb.ca. For more information, please contact Giselle Goguen, Director of Public Affairs and Research, at 506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.