Fredericton, November 20, 2014 – The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is releasing today on its website the first in a series of factsheets on the language rights of New Brunswickers. This first factsheet describes the linguistic obligations that provincial departments and Crown corporations have towards citizens.
“Language rights are fundamental rights,” said Official Languages Commissioner Katherine d’Entremont. “Citizens must know exactly what their language rights are in order to be able to exercise them fully. The goal of this series of factsheets is to explain these rights in plain language, while highlighting other aspects of official languages.”
This first factsheet points out that public bodies must actively offer their services in both English and French.
“The active offer of service means that, from the moment of first contact, the employee has the obligation to inform the citizen that services are available in both languages,” the Commissioner said. “Therefore, it is not up to citizens to request service in their language; rather, employees must offer it to them. Once a citizen has chosen a language, that choice must be respected throughout the chain of service.”
The Commissioner indicated that an employee should never attempt to determine if a citizen speaks the other official language once the citizen has expressed his or her language of choice. “The language of choice lies with the citizen, not with the employee.”
The first factsheet further states that citizens’ language rights apply to all types of communication. Commissioner d’Entremont therefore notes that public bodies must meet their obligations fully when using social media. “For example, all tweets intended for the general public must be posted simultaneously in both languages. The status of equality of both official languages and both official linguistic communities requires that all postings and publications intended for the general public be made available in English and French at the same time.”
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages will release other factsheets on the language rights of New Brunswickers over the next few months. This initiative falls within the Commissioner’s mandate of promoting the advancement of both official languages. It also aims to follow-up on the 2013 Report of the Select Committee on the Revision of the Official Languages Act in which “the committee would like the Commissioner to make greater efforts to improve public awareness of [her] role.”
“The Committee’s report stresses that there must be greater public awareness of the province’s bilingual status,” Katherine d’Entremont said. “This series of factsheets will be helpful in achieving this goal.”
The first factsheet can be viewed and printed by visiting the Office of the Commissioner’s website at www.officiallanguages.nb.ca.
For more information, please contact:
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 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.