February 15, 2016 – The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont, is expressing concerns regarding the plan to transfer management of the Extra-Mural Program and Tele-Care to Medavie EMS.
"Medavie EMS manages Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB). Since its creation in 2007, ANB has had considerable difficulty respecting its language obligations. I am therefore quite concerned about the plan to transfer the management of other public programs to Medavie EMS."
The Official Languages Act applies to companies providing services on behalf of the government. However, the Commissioner notes that it does not guarantee the respect of citizens’ language rights.
"Despite the fact that these companies have clear linguistic obligations, there is often a lack of concrete steps to ensure that these obligations are met,” d’Entremont continued. “Nearly a decade later, ANB acknowledges having less than half of the bilingual employees they say they need to serve citizens in both official languages. Such a situation could have been avoided if ANB, in the beginning, had adopted an effective plan to conform with its language obligations.”
D’Entremont also said that although the Act requires the government to ensure that these companies comply with the Province’s own linguistic obligations, audit measures are often lacking. The Commissioner notes that investigations conducted by her office have not found such audit measures by departments.
"If the Department of Health had been closely monitoring ANB, they would be farther down the road toward compliance today.”
The Commissioner intends to monitor the situation closely. "Prevention is better than a cure. The experience with Ambulance New Brunswick has been very instructive. The government must ensure that all models of public-private service delivery guarantee the respect of New Brunswickers’ language rights."
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About the Commissioner of Official Languages
The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly. Her role is to protect the language rights of members of the Anglophone and Francophone communities and to promote the advancement of both official languages.