Fredericton, March 6, 2013 – Today, the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Graham Fraser, and his New Brunswick counterpart, Michel Carrier, marked the 20th anniversary of the amendment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include section 16.1. This section recognizes the equality of New Brunswick’s two official language communities and gives both communities the right to their own educational and cultural institutions.
“Section 16.1 is key to the vitality of our English and French communities,” Carrier said. “On the one hand, it protects the right of each community to have its own schools and other educational and cultural institutions. On the other, it requires the government of New Brunswick to protect and promote the equality of the two communities as well as their right to distinct institutions. Section 16.1 is not merely a statement of principles; it is a commitment to act to ensure the equality of the two official language communities, and that is what makes it so important.”
According to Commissioner Fraser, “This provision of the Charter is central to the protection and promotion of the vitality of New Brunswick’s official language communities, particularly in the area of education.”
Section 16.1 was added to the Charter in March 1993 at the request of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick. It reinforces the main elements of the Act Recognizing the Equality of the Two Official Linguistic Communities in New Brunswick, which was enacted in 1981 by the provincial Legislative Assembly.
At a ceremony held in Fredericton, both commissioners lauded New Brunswick’s leadership in the area of language equality. “Section 16.1 is a testament to the province’s determination to ensure the vitality of its two official language communities, a gesture that brings great honour to this province and one that must be celebrated,” said Commissioner Carrier.
The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Michel Carrier, and the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Graham Fraser. (to obtain a copy of this photo, please contact the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick)
Signing of a memorandum of understanding
Michel Carrier and Graham Fraser also announced the signing of an agreement that will enable both offices to expand their cooperation in order to optimize their support to the citizens, communities and organizations that they serve. In particular, the agreement will allow both offices to carry out joint studies and promotional activities.
“This agreement will enable us to coordinate our efforts in certain areas,” said Commissioner Carrier. “Language rights issues and challenges are often similar, and we have everything to gain from greater cooperation between our two offices.”
“In a way, this agreement officially confirms what had already been established informally: a friendly and effective partnership,” said Commissioner Fraser. “For example, we are currently working together on a study about access to justice in both official languages.”
Mr. Fraser also congratulated Mr. Carrier on his 10 years of tireless work on behalf of New Brunswickers.
Michel Carrier and Graham Fraser sign the collaboration agreement between their two offices. (to obtain a copy of this photo, please contact the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick)
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada
Manager, Strategic Communications and Media Relations
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
Director of Public Affairs and Research
Section 16.1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
English and French linguistic communities in New Brunswick
16.1. (1) The English linguistic community and the French linguistic community in New Brunswick have equality of status and equal rights and privileges, including the right to distinct educational institutions and such distinct cultural institutions as are necessary for the preservation and promotion of those communities.
Role of the legislature and government of New Brunswick
(2) The role of the legislature and government of New Brunswick to preserve and promote the status, rights and privileges referred to in subsection (1) is affirmed.