June 21, 2016

Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick tables 2015-2016 Annual Report

June 21, 2016 – The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont, tabled her third annual report today. The document presents the results of an audit which sought to determine whether government departments and agencies (Part I) offer and provide services in both official languages in all regions of the province.

The in-person and telephone audits reveal relatively high rates of service delivery in both official languages at the provincial level: above 80% for service in French and above 90% for service in English. There was not a single case of failure to obtain service in English in any of the seven regions of the province. However, in four regions, there were failures in obtaining services in French, the highest failure rate being 18.2%.

“After nearly half a century of official bilingualism in New Brunswick, one might expect the delivery of bilingual services to be excellent in all respects, throughout the province. Our audit findings reveal that this is not the case,” Katherine d’Entremont said. “Although the rates of service delivery in both official languages are relatively high, there are failures in various categories, indicating that there are citizens who are not able to be served by government in the official language of their choice.”

The Commissioner emphasized that this audit was conducted with only one group of institutions with obligations under the Official Languages Act (OLA), namely, government departments and agencies (Part I). Public bodies excluded from the audit were mainly the health sector, the courts, police services, Crown corporations as well as municipalities and Regional Service Commissions with obligations under the OLA.

The audit also reveals a very low rate of active offer of service during in-person audits in offices. On average, auditors were greeted in both official languages by employees fewer than one in five times.

“In the absence of an active offer, our auditors were instructed to insist on being served in the audit language, English or French. However, citizens are not auditors, and many of them are reluctant to request service in the official language of their choice if they are greeted only in the other language. Failure to make a verbal active offer will often result in services being provided in the language chosen by the employee rather than in the language that would have been chosen by the citizen.”

Katherine d’Entremont noted that the active offer of service became mandatory when the new OLA was adopted in 2002. “By making the active offer mandatory, legislators wanted to change the dynamics of service delivery. Citizens would no longer have the burden of requesting services in their language; it would be up to the government to offer them a choice.”

To ensure the delivery of quality bilingual services throughout the province, Katherine d’Entremont recommends that the government conduct an in-depth review of its OLA implementation plan, published in July 2015.

“Since 2013, the OLA has required the government to have a plan to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act,” Katherine d’Entremont said. “The Act specifies the objectives and measures that the plan must include. In the context of an investigation, we closely examined the various measures contained in the Plan and concluded that many of them are insufficient to achieve the objectives set out in the OLA. We therefore concluded that important elements of the Plan do not comply with the Act and recommend that government make a number of changes to the Plan.”

During the presentation before the Standing Committee on Procedure, Privileges and Legislative Officers, Commissioner d’Entremont noted that the government has still not acted on fundamental recommendations she made over the past two years. These include recommendations made further to the study on the recruitment of bilingual staff and second-language training for public servants.

“It is doubtful that government could fully comply with the OLA if it does not implement our recommendations,” the Commissioner said. "If it continues along such a path, citizens may have to apply to the courts to have their language rights respected, which would be very costly for the Province. However, legislators created the position of Commissioner of Official Languages precisely to avoid this type of situation. The Commissioner of Official Languages is a language ombudsman, whose work often results in the resolution of situations of non-compliance with the OLA, thus avoiding costly and time consuming litigation, both for citizens and government."  

Again this year, the Commissioner’s report highlights inspiring practices with respect to official languages. This year, Katherine d’Entremont pays tribute to the leadership of Janine Doucet, Administrative Director of the New Brunswick Heart Centre. This provincial centre serves patients from all across the province. “I have every hope that the practices of Ms. Doucet and the New Brunswick Heart Centre will inspire other public sector employees in their efforts to ensure quality services in French and English for all people in this province.”

Commissioner d’Entremont emphasized how important it is for this province to set an example with respect to official bilingualism.

“New Brunswick can, and must, rise to the challenge of its status as the only officially bilingual province. First of all, this requires leadership to ensure that respect for the two languages and the two official linguistic communities is a real priority, not just a talking point.  Then the Province must find ways to fully meet its linguistic obligations. Lastly, regular monitoring is required in order to prevent problems and ensure respect for the language rights of New Brunswickers. In short, official languages must be a real priority.”

For further information:
Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

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.
 

BACKGROUNDER

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE OLA COMPLIANCE AUDITS

COMPLIANCE OF PART I DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES WITH THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT
Are you being served in the official language  of your choice?

Can New Brunswickers be served by government in the official language of their choice throughout the province? That is the question behind a pilot project conducted by the Office of the Commissioner to audit compliance by Part I departments and agencies with the Official Languages Act. This was the first such assessment since the 1996 Delaney-LeBlanc report, published by the government. The audits were used to compare the delivery of services in English and in French at the provincial and regional levels.

Three types of audits were conducted: in-person audits in offices, telephone audits, and e-mail audits. They were conducted between January 18 and May 6, 2016. The margin of error for the three types of audits was 5%, 19 times out of 20.

It is important to note that this audit was conducted with only one group of institutions with obligations under the OLA, namely Part I government departments and agencies. Public bodies excluded from the audit were mainly the health sector, the courts, police services, Crown corporations and municipalities and Regional Service Commissions with obligations under the OLA.

IN-PERSON AUDITS IN OFFICES

• Verbal active offer (greetings in both official languages by employees) was the exception rather than the rule at the provincial level. The rates of in-person active offer for audits conducted in French and audits conducted in English were 19.3% and 17.7%, respectively (Table 1).

• Rates for receiving service in the official language of one’s choice are relatively  high at the provincial level (Tables 10 and 11):
o 81.6% for audits in French,
o 94.7% for audits in English.

• There were no instances of failure to receive service in English anywhere in the province. However, failures to receive service in French were reported in four of the seven regions (Table 10):
o Moncton and South-East (7.7%),
o Fundy Shore and Saint John (12.5%),
o Fredericton and River Valley (16.4%),
o Miramichi (10.5%).

TELEPHONE AUDITS

• Active offer (greetings in both official languages) is common practice over the telephone, and failure rates are low: 3.6% for audits conducted in French and 7.8% for audits conducted in English (Tables 12 and 13).

• Rates for receiving service in the official language of one’s choice are relatively high at the provincial level (Tables 20 and 21):
o 92.1% for audits in French,
o 94.6% for audits in English.

• There were no instances of failure to receive service in English anywhere in the province. However, a failure to receive service in French occurred in four of the seven regions (Table 20):
o Moncton and South-East (2.9%),
o Fundy Shore and Saint John (18.2%),
o Restigouche (6.3%),
o Miramichi (4.8%).

• At the provincial level, auditors who conducted audits in French received the service they were seeking from a program manager 73.4 % of the time. This rate rose to 78.8% for audits conducted in English (Table 17).

E-MAIL AUDITS

• As for the quality of language observed for e-mail service audits, standard French was reported in 81.8% of written responses and fair French was observed in 17.6% of cases at the provincial level. A failure rate of 0.6% was observed for e-mail service audits in French (Table 22).

• In terms of the quality of English observed during the e-mail service audits, standard English was reported in 97.8% of written responses and fair English was observed in 2.2% of cases. No failures were noted with respect to written English (Table 23).

• At the provincial level, auditors who conducted audits in French received the service they were seeking from a program manager 70.9% of the time. The rate was 65.4% for audits in English (Table 25).

List of Part I departments and agencies included in the compliance audit with the OLA

• Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries
• Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation
• Education and Early Childhood Development (excluding the English and French sections)
• Energy and Mines
• Environment and Local Government
• Executive Council Office
• Finance
• Health (Department)
• Human Resources
• Justice
• Kings Landing Historical Settlement
• New Brunswick Museum
• Natural Resources
• New Brunswick Police Commission
• Office of the Attorney General
• Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour
• Public Libraries
• Public Safety
• Regional Development Corporation
• Service New Brunswick
• Social Development
• Tourism, Heritage and Culture
• Transportation and Infrastructure
• Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal

March 2, 2016

Publication of the investigation report on security services in government buildings

March 2, 2016 – The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont, published an investigation report today on security services in government buildings. The report highlights several examples of non‑compliance with the Official Languages Act. It also reveals that the contract between the provincial government and the security company, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, does not contain a provision on the obligation to provide bilingual services. 

To ensure compliance with the Act, Katherine d’Entremont recommends that contracts between the government and security companies contain a provision clearly stating the obligation to provide service of equal quality in both official languages. The Commissioner also recommends that the government conduct regular compliance audits to ensure that security companies comply with the Province’s linguistic obligations. 

The investigation into security services was undertaken in May 2015 when the Commissioner became aware that bilingual services were not available at the security/reception position at Chancery Place, one of the main provincial government office buildings in Fredericton. 

"Since 2004, the Office of the Commissioner has conducted ten investigations into the lack of service provided in French by security officers," d’Entremont specified. "The May 2015 incident caused us to launch a systemic investigation to determine whether the provincial government was taking the necessary steps to comply with the Official Languages Act. The findings of our investigation were revealing:  the contract between the government and the Corps of Commissionaires does not contain any provisions pertaining to official languages."

The report states that the special nature of a security officer’s duties, and the fact that he or she generally works alone, means that the government must make bilingualism a requirement for any officer serving the public. "Members of the public must be able to receive services in English or French immediately from these officers as they control access to government buildings,” Katherine d’Entremont said.

The report contains a list of investigations on security services conducted by the Office of the Commissioner since 2004. Following one such investigation in 2006, the Premier of New Brunswick wrote to all ministers and deputy ministers directing them to include a provision on linguistic obligations in all service contracts with private security companies. The Commissioner’s investigation determined that, ten years later, this directive was not followed. The report also points to a 2011 government call for tenders for security services in which bilingualism was not stated as a requirement for most security officers. 

"Had the 2006 directive been followed and had the government carried out its responsibilities with respect to such a contract provision, many violations could have been avoided,” d’Entremont said.

The Commissioner also points out that the government maintains full responsibility for compliance with the Act when it entrusts a company with the delivery of a service on its behalf. 

“Section 30 of the Act specifies that the government has an obligation to ensure that the third party honours the Province’s linguistic obligations, which means that the government cannot divest itself of its responsibility if the third party does not comply with the Act.”

Moreover, the Commissioner urges the government to be clear with third party service providers on the consequences of not respecting the Act. “Government must clearly indicate to its private sector service providers that non-compliance with the government’s linguistic obligations may result in termination of the contract."

The Commissioner’s investigation report states that the services provided by security officers must be of equal quality in both languages. 

"Our two official languages have equal status; consequently, service must be of equal quality in English and French," d’Entremont continued. "It is not acceptable for an Anglophone to receive service in English immediately while a Francophone must wait for someone to be free to help a unilingual security officer. We must also be mindful of emergency situations that could arise in government buildings. Clearly, a unilingual security officer should never be placed in a situation by the employer of attempting to serve the public in such a critical front-line function."

In the report, the Commissioner criticizes the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure’s handling of the investigation.  D’Entremont takes issue with the fact that the formal notice of investigation, a confidential document addressed to the Deputy Head, found its way into the public domain. D’Entremont therefore recommends that government departments and agencies that have not already done so develop a protocol to ensure the confidentiality of all documents exchanged as part of investigations conducted by the Office of the Commissioner.

"This is the first time we have experienced such a breach of confidentiality since the Office of the Commissioner was set up in 2003. A breach of this nature undermines the public’s trust in government’s ability to treat such investigations in a confidential manner. "

The investigation report is available online on the Office of the Commissioner’s website.

For more information, please contact:

Hugues Beaulieu

Director of Public Affairs and Research

506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444

Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

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.

BACKGROUNDER

Recommendations made by the Commissioner on security services in government buildings

  • THAT to ensure compliance with section 30 of the Official Languages Act, all future contracts for the provision of security and reception services between institutions and a third party include a provision detailing the linguistic obligations of the third party.
  • THAT to ensure compliance with section 30 of the Official Languages Act, all contracts for security and reception services in effect between institutions and third parties be revised to include a provision detailing the linguistic obligations of the third party;
  • THAT the minister responsible for the application of the Official Languages Act remind ministers and deputy ministers of the province’s linguistic obligations when institutions engage a third party to provide services on their behalf; and see to it that ad hoc audits are carried out to ensure compliance with section 30 of the Official Languages Act.

Recommendation made by the Commissioner regarding the confidential nature of investigations

  • THAT those responsible for provincial institutions ensure that they protect confidentiality at each stage of the investigation process so that members of the public can be confident that the complaints they file against an institution will be handled in a confidential manner by all parties involved.

List of investigations on security services 

  • 2004 Legislative Assembly
  • 2004 Legislative Assembly
  • 2005 Public Health Regional Office (Moncton)
  • 2006 Legislative Assembly
  • 2009 Legislative Assembly
  • 2012-2016  Victoria Health Center 
  • 2014 Government House
  • 2015 Legislative Assembly
  • 2015 Chancery Place
  • 2015 Mental Health Center (Moncton)

Excerpt from Premier Bernard Lord’s memorandum to Ministers and Deputy Ministers regarding security services (January 2006)

“[…] the Official Languages Commissioner has suggested that service contracts, signed between departments and a third party to provide building security services, contain a specific provision that clearly outlines the responsibilities and obligations to ensure that service in both official languages is available in accordance with the Act.

I concur with the Commissioner’s suggestion and ask that you ensure this be done in all future contracts for such services.”

 

 

 

February 15, 2016

Extra-Mural Program and Tele-Care – Official Languages Commissioner expresses concerns

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." 

For more information, please contact:

Hugues Beaulieu

Director of Public Affairs and Research

506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444

Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

 

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.

 

 

November 6, 2015

Statement by the Commissioner Katherine d’Entremont on the investigation of security services in governmental buildings

Friday, November 6, 2015

In 2002, the members of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick adopted a new Official Languages Act. That is when the Commissioner’s position was created. 

Members of the Legislative Assembly have given the Commissioner two roles: to protect the language rights of Anglophones and Francophones of this province; and to promote the advancement of our two official languages. 

Lately, the media and social media have had much say about our investigation of security services in governmental buildings.

That investigation has not been completed, therefore I cannot comment on it in detail.

As a general rule, I avoid speaking publicly about an ongoing investigation for obvious reasons.

However, I must react to certain recent public statements in order to protect the integrity of our office and the Official Languages Act.

The Office of the Commissioner conducts investigations to shine a light on the cause of an incident and find ways of correcting the situation so that it does not happen again.

We conduct investigations to ensure that government institutions comply with their language obligations, i.e. to serve Anglophones and Francophones in the official language of their choice.

In my capacity as Commissioner, I do not have the authority to intervene in the management of public servants or employees who provide services on behalf of government.

The measures concerning the security officer discussed in the media were not suggested or imposed by me. Such measures can only originate from the government or the company responsible for security officers.

Since the investigation of security services in governmental buildings is not completed, I wish to point out that we have not yet made any recommendations whatsoever in this matter. 

Furthermore, in my capacity as Commissioner, my objective is to formulate practical recommendations.

Some people are questioning the relevance of an investigation on this matter.

I would like to remind them that the Office of the Commissioner has conducted six investigations of security services in governmental buildings since April 2004.

Accordingly, in response to one such investigation, in 2006, the then Premier wrote to all ministers and deputy ministers to remind them that members of the public who enter governmental buildings and must interact with security officers should be able to do so in the language of their choice.

Some people question the fact that the Commissioner can conduct own-initiative investigations.  How can I ensure respect for the rights of Anglophones and Francophones if I must remain silent when I am witness to a situation where the Act is not respected?

For various reasons, citizens do not file a complaint when their language rights are not respected. For example, for fear of reprisal. That is why the MLAs have given me the power to undertake investigations on my own initiative.

Most independent officers of the Legislative Assembly as well as the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada have the power to undertake such investigations.

A great deal has been said about the notice of investigation we sent to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure in the context of this investigation into security services in governmental buildings.

Some people have suggested that the notice should have specified that the investigation was launched by me. I take note of these comments; however, I wish to point out that it changes absolutely nothing in the way in which an investigation is conducted.

The purpose of a notice of investigation is to inform an institution that we wish to obtain its version of the facts pertaining to a situation. 

Furthermore, if I had to specify that an investigation arose from a complaint from the public or that it was undertaken by me, it could have negative consequences.

Institutions may feel compelled to prioritize their actions according to the origin of the investigation. They may also assign more importance to an investigation undertaken by the Commissioner.

According to some articles, people would like me to focus more on the positive aspects of official bilingualism.

I am pleased to remind everyone that this year we published the very first study on the economic benefits of bilingualism, Two Languages, It’s Good For Business.

The study was conducted by economist Pierre-Marcel Desjardins and economic development specialist and now the province’s Chief Economist, David Campbell.

In addition, in each of my two annual reports, I have highlighted the best practices of provincial public servants.

Now, I would like to express my concern about certain statements made by the Minister responsible for Official Languages, the Honourable Donald Arseneault.

Mr. Arseneault may criticize my work if he wishes. 

However, his remarks suggest that it is acceptable for institutions to not respect the language rights of New Brunswickers.

I would like to remind Mr. Arseneault of the words of the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick who stated in 2007: “language rights are infrangible.”

Language rights are a sign of respect and equality of our two linguistic communities.

Language rights ensure that an English-speaking person who goes to the Edmundston Hospital is greeted in both languages, Hello, Bonjour. The person is informed that he can receive health care in his own language, so it is not up to him to ask to be served in English. This is the active offer of service, which is a very important obligation found in the Act.

Language rights also exist to ensure that a French-speaking person can go to a Service New Brunswick office in Saint John and quite easily choose service in French, service of equal quality to the service provided in English, because English and French have equal status in New Brunswick.

Respect and equality. Those are two words at the heart of the Official Languages Act, two words that guide us equally when we conduct investigations.


In closing, allow me to summarize the facts.

• We conduct investigations to ensure that the language rights of Anglophones and Francophones are fully respected.

• The Legislative Assembly entrusted me with the responsibility to conduct investigations arising from complaints or on my own initiative. Sometimes it is a difficult role, but it is the work I must do in my capacity as Commissioner.

• The measures affecting the security officer mentioned in the media were neither suggested nor imposed by me. Such measures could only be taken by government or by the company responsible for security officers.

• The Office of the Commissioner is firmly committed to promoting the advancement of our two official languages, and we do so within the means provided to us by the Legislative Assembly.

I will conclude by stating that the language rights of Anglophones and Francophones in this province are not symbolic rights. They are real rights, rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are rights that deserve to be defended.

November 3, 2015

Statement from the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick in relation to the investigation pertaining to security services in provincial government buildings

Fredericton, November 3rd, 2015

As Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, if I become aware of a potential significant violation to the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick (the “OLA”), I must take action. The purpose of an investigation is to shine a light on the root cause of a violation to the OLA and to find ways to correct the situation so that it does not repeat itself.

The initial correspondence sent to a concerned institution is a formal notice of our intent to carry out an investigation. The purpose of the letter is not to specify whether an investigation is being conducted as a result of a complaint filed by a member of the public or initiated by the Commissioner. In that regard, the OLA does not require the need to specify whether an investigation is being conducted as a result of a complaint filed by a member of the public or initiated by the Commissioner.

Whether an investigation originates from a complaint filed by a member of the public or as a result of a situation the Commissioner has become aware of or has experienced; the investigation process is the same.

In all investigations, the institution concerned is notified of our intent to carry out an investigation into alleged violations of the OLA. At that point in the process, the institution concerned is asked for their position with respect to the alleged violations of the OLA. Following the receipt of the response from the institution concerned and in light of facts provided by all parties involved, an analysis is performed. An investigation report is then prepared which may include recommendations made to the institution concerned with the purpose of attaining full compliance with the OLA.

It is important to note that the Commissioner’s powers are limited to making recommendations. The Commissioner does not have decision making powers with respect to correcting a situation of non-compliance of the OLA. Such decisions are the responsibility of the institution concerned.

October 27, 2015

The Office of the Commissioner clarifies some points following a News Release by the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick

Fredericton, October 27, 2015 –  The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick provides clarifications following the October 27th news release by the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick on changes to the Official Languages Act (OLA).

Subsection 43(10) of the OLA states that "the Commissioner shall conduct and carry out investigations either pursuant to any complaint made to the Commissioner or on his or her own initiative and shall, as provided in this Act, report and make recommendations with respect to such investigations.”

In accordance with subsection 43(10), last May, the Commissioner launched an investigation pertaining to security services at Chancery Place. Since then, the investigation was expanded to include security services contracted by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure for provincial government buildings.

Given that the investigation is still underway, no report or recommendations have been issued pertaining to this file. Moreover, the Office of the Commissioner is unable to provide further information while the investigation is ongoing.

The Commissioner believes that it is important that independent officers of the Legislative Assembly be able to conduct investigations on their own initiative. This is necessary so that they may fully exercise their oversight role over government activities.

“For many reasons, citizens do not always file a complaint when their language rights are not respected by provincial institutions,’’ stated Katherine d’Entremont. Since 2002, the OLA has allowed us to initiate various important investigations, some of them systemic in nature, and to make recommendations to ensure a better compliance with the Official Languages Act.’’

For more information:
Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

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.

September 22, 2015

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends expanding and strengthening the role of the New Brunswick Translation Bureau

Fredericton, September 22, 2015 – The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont, suggests that all organizations subject to the Official Languages Act (OLA) be encouraged to use the services of the New Brunswick Translation Bureau. According to the Commissioner, this would allow for better quality assurance of documents published by government and public agencies. In addition, by translating a greater volume of words, the Bureau could increase its financial autonomy. It could therefore play an enhanced role in encouraging a more balanced use of the two official languages across government.

"Since it was established in 1967, the New Brunswick Translation Bureau has developed expertise that serves the needs of government departments and agencies extremely well," the Commissioner said. "It has become a centre of excellence in translation that has fostered the development of a language industry in our province. Expanding and strengthening the Translation Bureau’s role would further our province’s interests."

At the moment, only the departments and certain public bodies* are required to use the Translation Bureau’s services. Crown corporations, municipalities subject to the Official Languages Act (OLA), and other public bodies can have their translation done by private companies in New Brunswick or elsewhere in Canada.

"As of July 1, 2016, over 40 professional associations will be subject to the OLA," Ms. d’Entremont continued. "This represents significant potential for the Translation Bureau, and the timing is right for the government to seize this opportunity."

"Translation of government documents is the Translation Bureau’s expertise," the Commissioner explained. "In fact, texts translated for the Bureau by the private sector are revised by Translation Bureau staff to be consistent with government terminology and to ensure that they accurately reflect New Brunswick realities. This clearly demonstrates the fundamental role of the Translation Bureau."

According to Ms. d’Entremont, the services provided by the Bureau go well beyond translation and revision of texts. "Thanks to the Translation Bureau, the provincial government benefits from consistent bilingual terminology across the public service," the Commissioner explained. "Translation Bureau staff also provide valuable language advice to public servants to help them write in English and in French. It should be noted that the OLA now requires the provincial government to adopt measures to enable public servants to work in the official language of their choice."

The New Brunswick Translation Bureau translates close to 13 million words a year. Approximately 40% of words are translated by Translation Bureau staff, and 60% by private contractors in New Brunswick and elsewhere in Canada. The provincial government recently published a request for information designed to look at other translation service delivery models, including recourse to a single provider. According to the Commissioner, a single private service provider is a risky model.

"This kind of approach could place the government in an untenable position if the provider were to experience problems or cease activities," the Commissioner explained. "The government’s constitutional obligations in terms of official languages are such that it cannot rely solely on the private sector for translation services."

The Commissioner also noted that the Translation Bureau has greatly increased its efficiency in the past few years.

"The Bureau now has a pre-translation system that enables employees to use a data bank to find sentences and sentence fragments it has previously translated, greatly accelerating the translation process," Ms. d’Entremont explained. "Production standards have also been set for translators to ensure a satisfactory level of production from all employees. Lastly, according to our information, the rate charged per word for translation still compares favourably with that of private companies."

Commissioner d’Entremont believes that the Province must take full advantage of the Translation Bureau’s expertise to ensure services of equal quality in both official languages.

"Ensuring quality government communication in both official languages requires an efficient and dynamic government translation service," Ms. d’Entremont continued. "The Translation Bureau is a cornerstone of official bilingualism in New Brunswick."

* Procurement Act

For more information:
Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1 888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

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.

 

June 18, 2015

The Commissioner of Official Languages presents her second annual report

Fredericton, June 18, 2015 – Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont, is recommending that starting in 2020, bilingualism be a requirement for appointment to a senior public servant position in New Brunswick. In the meantime, the Commissioner recommends that a unilingual person appointed to a senior public servant position be required to attain an advanced level of proficiency in the other official language.

These recommendations are from a study on bilingualism in New Brunswick’s senior public service, presented in the Office of the Commissioner’s 2014-2015 annual report.

“There are several reasons why senior public servants need to be able to speak both official languages,” the Commissioner explained. “Apart from their obligation to communicate with the two linguistic communities and to supervise Anglophone and Francophone employees, senior public servants are also primarily responsible for applying the Official Languages Act. For all of these reasons, bilingualism is an essential competency.”

Senior public servants, i.e. deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers, and executive directors, account for roughly 3% of all government employees in departments and agencies (Part 1). The study by the Office of the Commissioner showed that approximately 50% of New Brunswick’s senior government officials can carry out their duties in both official languages.

“The Official Languages Act now requires the government to improve the bilingual capacity of its senior management. Our recommendations should guide the government towards attaining that objective,” d'Entremont added.

The Commissioner is also recommending that a provincial act be adopted so that in the future, bilingualism be a requirement for the appointment of officers of the Legislative Assembly. The Province has eight officers, including the Ombudsman and the Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner.

“The time has come for New Brunswick to live up to its status as the only officially bilingual province in Canada and take decisive action to ensure that all senior public servants in the province speak both English and French,” said d’Entremont.

The Commissioner also presents recommendations to ensure the success of the next Implementation Plan of the Official Languages Act.

“An evaluation of the last plan revealed that very few concrete measures have been implemented. That is very disappointing, as the plan was intended to give new impetus to official bilingualism,” said d’Entremont.  “Since December 2013, the provincial government has had a legal obligation to adopt a new plan which it has not done yet. I expect this plan will be announced soon, and more importantly, that it will be truly implemented.”

With respect to investigations, the Commissioner highlights the City of Miramichi’s non-compliance with its language obligations.

“Widespread violations of the Official Languages Act have been persisting for several years in Miramichi. This situation is unacceptable, and government officials must ensure that the city complies with the Act.”

The Office of the Commissioner’s 2014-2015 annual report also includes the results of a major study on the evolution of bilingualism in New Brunswick. It shows that the number of bilingual people in the province more than doubled between 1951 and 2001, settling at slightly more than one-third (34.2%) of the population.  However, since the early 2000s, the number of bilingual people in New Brunswick has been stagnating.

The Commissioner also addresses the new language obligations of professional associations and is pleased the provincial government accepted her recommendation to extend the associations’ language obligations to the general public. “The primary role of a professional association is to protect the public by regulating the practice of a profession. Consequently, it was not acceptable that their language obligations be limited to their members.  I applaud the Legislative Assembly’s recent actions in amending the Official Languages Act so that, beginning in 2016, professional associations will be required to offer their services to the public in both official languages.”

Again this year, the Commissioner highlights best practices in the delivery of bilingual services to the public and the use of both official languages within government departments and agencies. The efforts of the following employees are recognized:

Language of Service
Éric Levesque
Nicole Newman
Michèle Roussel
(Health Workforce Planning Branch – Department of Health)

Language of Service
Edith Tippett
(Service New Brunswick)

Language of Work
Eric Nadeau
(Service New Brunswick)

For more information:
Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

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.

 

COMMISSIONER’S RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING THE BILINGUAL CAPACITY OF THE SENIOR PUBLIC SERVICE IN NEW BRUNSWICK

Legislative Officers

• That the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick enact legislation establishing that the ability to speak and understand both official languages (level 3, oral, in the second language) be a requirement for the appointment of all new officers of the Legislative Assembly.

Deputy Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers and other Senior Public Servants*

• That, over the next four years, all competitions for and staffing of deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and other executive positions (Pay Bands 8 to 12) include

o a requirement to speak and understand  both official languages (level 3, oral, in the second language)
or
o a requirement to attain a level 3, oral, in the second language, within three years from the date of appointment.

• That, beginning in 2020, the ability to speak and understand both official languages (level 3, oral, in the second language) be a requirement for the appointment of all deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and other executive positions (Pay Bands 8 to 12).

*Excluding positions within the English and French sections of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Second-language training

• That the government establish an intensive second-language training program tailored to the needs of senior public servants.

April 10, 2015

The Official Languages Act and municipal and regional services

Fredericton, April 10, 2015 – In New Brunswick, all cities and some municipalities and regional service commissions must offer services to the public in both official languages. These services are outlined in a new factsheet published by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick.

“Local government is closest to citizens,” said Commissioner Katherine d’Entremont. “The Legislative Assembly recognized this in extending the application of the Official Languages Act to portions of the local government sector in 2002.”

Fredericton, April 10, 2015 – In New Brunswick, all cities and some municipalities and regional service commissions must offer services to the public in both official languages. These services are outlined in a new factsheet published by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick.

“Local government is closest to citizens,” said Commissioner Katherine d’Entremont. “The Legislative Assembly recognized this in extending the application of the Official Languages Act to portions of the local government sector in 2002.”

In addition to the eight cities, municipalities whose official language minority population represents at least 20% of its total population must also provide services in English and French. This is the case of the municipalities of Atholville, Charlo, Dalhousie, Eel River Crossing, Rexton, Richibucto, Shediac, and Tide Head.

The range of services that must be provided in both languages is varied and includes among others: public notices, responses to inquiries, websites, traffic signs, licensing services, and municipal by-laws.

In addition, 8 of the 12 regional service commissions have language obligations under the Official Languages Act.

“The municipalities and commissions with language obligations must take the necessary measures to inform citizens that their services are available in English and French,” said Ms. d’Entremont. “An active offer of service in both languages is at the heart of quality services.”

This new factsheet on language rights is the fifth in a series produced by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick. This initiative ties in with the Commissioner’s mandate to promote the advancement of both official languages. The initiative also seeks to follow up on the 2013 Report of the Select Committee on the Revision of the Official Languages Act in which the Committee expressed hope that “the Commissioner would make greater efforts to improve public awareness of [her] role.”

To consult and print these factsheets, visit the website of the Office of the Commissioner at: http://www.officiallanguages.nb.ca/ (My Rights section)

For more information:

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

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.

March 25, 2015

Two Languages: It’s Good for Business

Fredericton, March 25, 2015 – Thanks to its two official languages, New Brunswick has a customer contact centre and back office industry generating $1.4 billion worth of export revenue annually for the province. It is estimated that this sector generates more than 15 000 jobs. In addition, both unilingual and bilingual New Brunswickers benefit from this economic activity given that the firms attracted to the province by the bilingual workforce have created two unilingual jobs for every bilingual job.

Those are some of the findings of a study co-authored by economist Pierre-Marcel Desjardins and economic development specialist David Campbell and commissioned by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick.

“Our bilingual advantage doesn’t only benefit bilingual people in the workforce” said the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont. “The study clearly demonstrates that unilingual people benefit even more. Our bilingual advantage is also due to the presence of our two linguistic communities which allows our province to multiply opportunities for commercial exchange.”

The report highlights many economic benefits of the province’s bilingual character and workforce. The ability to serve customers across the country in both languages is cited as a key factor when national finance and insurance firms decide to locate or expand their operations in New Brunswick. Bilingualism has also led to the development of a vibrant language industry in the province. It also allows the Province to be able to attract post-secondary students from other provinces and countries to study in the province in either English or French.

“Our two languages are an important economic asset in a global economy”, said Katherine d’Entremont. The fundamental question that led us to commission this study last summer was: “How can we better understand the contribution of bilingualism to the New Brunswick economy as well as it’s untapped potential for economic growth?’’ 

The study proposes six concrete ways in which the province could leverage its bilingual workforce for future economic growth. Among those, the authors of the study suggest addressing the changing nature of customer contact centers, expanding educational services export revenue and promoting entrepreneurial activity at the intersection of language industries and technology.

“Government is looking for ways to grow and diversify its economy” said d’Entremont. By publishing this study, we’re making valuable information available to both government and private sector stakeholders working in economic development.” 

The authors recommend the creation of an industry/government council with a mandate of identifying concrete measures to increase the economic benefits of bilingualism. This council would contribute to the development of industries for which bilingualism is a key factor. The council would also be responsible for a strategy to support businesses interested in enhancing the province's competitive advantage generated by bilingualism.

“New Brunswick is uniquely positioned to take greater advantage of its bilingualism asset” said d’Entremont. “The results of this study provide direction to government and the private sector to reach this goal”. 

-30-

The study was made possible through financial support provided by the New Brunswick Regional Development Corporation.

To consult the study, visit the website of the Office of the Commissioner at: http://www.officiallanguages.nb.ca/ (Publications section)

For more information:

Hugues Beaulieu

Director of Public Affairs and Research

506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444

Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

 

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.

 

 

February 25, 2015

Justice and language rights

Fredericton, February 25, 2015 – English and French are the official languages of the New Brunswick courts. What does this actually mean for New Brunswickers? A new factsheet from the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick answers that question.

In New Brunswick, all individuals have the right to use English or French before a court. “Whether an Anglophone has to appear in Caraquet or a Francophone has to appear before a court in Woodstock, every person has the right to use the official language of his or her choice before the provincial courts,” explained Commissioner Katherine d’Entremont. “Moreover, the Official Languages Act (OLA) stipulates that no person shall be placed at a disadvantage by reason of his or her choice of language.”

It should be noted that the word “court” applies not only to courts of law, but also to administrative tribunals.

“Administrative tribunals exist in fields as diverse as property assessment, workers’ compensation, energy, and human rights,” added d’Entremont. “All administrative tribunals must hear citizens in the official language of their choice.” The factsheet also points out that the administrative tribunal’s judge must have the ability to understand, without the aid of an interpreter, the language chosen by the parties in a case.

“The bilingual capacity of our courts is essential to guarantee that all New Brunswickers have access to the justice system in the official language of their choice,” said d’Entremont.

In addition to the courts, other organizations connected with the justice system have linguistic obligations. The factsheet gives as examples Sheriff services and the New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission.

The factsheet also addresses the importance of the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick. We are reminded that the Premier of New Brunswick is responsible for the administration of the OLA. Moreover, in the event of a conflict between the OLA and another provincial act, the OLA prevails. For anyone who is interested in the evolution of language rights in New Brunswick, the factsheet also presents a few historical milestones.

“Language rights are fundamental rights,” stated d’Entremont. “That is why they enjoy increased protection, notably through their inclusion in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

This new factsheet on language rights is the fourth in a series produced by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick. This initiative ties in with the Commissioner’s mandate to promote the advancement of both official languages. The initiative also seeks to follow up on the 2013 Report of the Select Committee on the Revision of the Official Languages Act in which the Committee expressed hope that “the Commissioner would make greater efforts to improve public awareness of [her] role.”

To consult and print these factsheets, visit the website of the Office of the Commissioner at: http://www.officiallanguages.nb.ca/ (My Rights section)

For more information:

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

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.

January 21, 2015

Linguistic obligations of policing services explained

Fredericton, January 21, 2015 – The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is releasing today on its website a new factsheet on the linguistic obligations of police forces in the province.

“All police forces in New Brunswick, whether municipal, regional, or the RCMP, are required to serve citizens in the official language of their choice,” reminded Commissioner Katherine d’Entremont.

The Official Languages Act requires that police officers inform the public of their right to receive services in English or French.

“Communications with a police department are generally of an official nature, and as such, must be clear and unambiguous,” the Commissioner said. “That’s why police officers must inform people at first contact that they may use the official language of their choice.”

The factsheet states that, if a police officer is unable to serve citizens in the official language of their choice, the officer must take whatever measures are necessary, within a reasonable time, to ensure compliance with the choice made.

“The importance of the linguistic obligations of the police forces in New Brunswick cannot be overstated” added the Commissioner. “Decisions by the Supreme Court and other courts have clearly established the fundamental character of these obligations”.

Those who feel their language rights have not been respected may submit a complaint to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. “The investigations we carry out and the recommendations we make to government help to improve the delivery of bilingual services in our province,” the Commissioner said.

This new factsheet is the third in a series on language rights produced by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. More factsheets will be published over the next few months.

This initiative ties in with the Commissioner’s mandate to promote the advancement of both official languages. It also seeks to follow up on the 2013 Report of the Select Committee on the Revision of the Official Languages Act in which the Committee expressed hope that “the Commissioner would make greater efforts to improve public awareness of [her] role.”

To consult and print out the first three factsheets on language rights, visit the website of the Office of the Commissioner at http://www.officiallanguages.nb.ca (My Rights section).

For further information:

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

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.