December 18, 2014

Language rights in health care

Fredericton, December 18, 2014 – Language rights as they relate to health care are the subject of a new factsheet released today by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick.  

“Access to care in the official language of one’s choice is not just a constitutional right,” said Official Languages Commissioner Katherine d'Entremont. “It is one of the most important factors in the quality of care. In fact, communication is at the heart of the helping relationship between the health professional and the patient.”

Ms. d’Entremont pointed out that, when people are ill, they feel vulnerable and may be reluctant to make use of a service in their language if it is not apparent that it is available. “To prevent such a situation, the Official Languages Act requires staff to make an active offer of service in English and in French,” the Commissioner explained. “Through the active offer of service, patients are not burdened with having to ask for service in their language; staff have the responsibility to offer it.” It should be noted that the official language chosen by the patient must be respected throughout the continuum of care.

The factsheet gives many examples of health organizations that have obligations under the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick. One of them is Ambulance New Brunswick. With that in mind, the Commissioner explained that a language barrier can have serious consequences in an emergency. “In medical emergencies, people often have trouble expressing themselves clearly. When a language barrier is added to the mix, clear communication, which is essential to a patient’s health, is compromised. This in turn compounds feelings of anxiety and panic.’’

The factsheet also specifies that the two health networks, i.e. Horizon and Vitalité, are required to provide all of their services in both official languages. “The fact that each network has its own internal language of operation does not have any bearing on their requirement to provide care to the public in both English and French throughout New Brunswick,” said the Commissioner.

This is the second in a series of factsheets on linguistic rights produced by the Office of the Commissioner. Others will be released over the next few months.

This initiative ties in with the Commissioner’s mandate to promote 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 expressed hope that “the Commissioner make greater efforts to improve public awareness of [her] role.”

The public can consult and print the first two factsheets on language rights by going to the website of the Office of the Commissioner at www.officiallanguages.nb.ca.

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 the members of the Anglophone and Francophone communities and to promote the advancement of both official languages.

November 20, 2014

Language rights of New Brunswickers explained

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:

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.

October 30, 2014

Language commissioners urge governments to increase Francophone immigration outside Quebec

Ottawa – Fredericton – Toronto – OCTOBER 30, 2014 – The Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Graham Fraser, his New Brunswick counterpart Katherine d’Entremont and Ontario’s French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau are pressing the federal and provincial governments to step up their efforts to increase immigration in Francophone communities outside Quebec. They are also pushing for the adoption of four guiding principles to ensure immigration contributes to the development and vitality of these communities.

“Immigration is crucial to the vitality, indeed the future, of official language minority communities,” said Commissioner Fraser. To benefit from immigration, Francophone and Acadian communities must attract immigrants in proportions equal to or greater than their demographic weight. But these communities are the big losers in terms of immigration, because only 2% of immigrants who settle outside Quebec are French-speaking, whereas these communities make up 4% of the population, or approximately 1 million Canadians. The commissioners see this situation as worrisome.

The federal government is currently making several changes to Canada’s immigration system, focusing on the economy, quicker labour market entry and recruitment of immigrants with skills in demand in Canada. “We’ve reached a turning point. In the past year, the federal government has renewed its commitment to addressing the shortage of Francophone immigrants. Meanwhile, we are just months away from one of the most substantial immigration system reforms in our history. Right now, we have an opportunity to transform immigration into a truly positive force for Francophone communities outside Quebec. We cannot let it pass us by,” explained Commissioner Fraser.

The three language ombudsmen believe that the federal immigration framework should be tailored to the specific objectives of the provincial and territorial governments for the selection, recruitment, integration and retention of Francophone immigrants. Such measures would help address the different socioeconomic contexts of minority communities.

“Ontario has led the way by setting a 5% target for Francophone immigration. The government must now make sure it has all the necessary tools, including a pan-governmental-community approach and cooperation with the federal government, to reach that target and address the needs and priorities of not only Francophone newcomers, but also those of the host communities in Ontario,” said Commissioner Boileau.

Commissioner of Official Languages Katherine d’Entremont welcomes the Government of New Brunswick’s commitment to ensuring 33% of the province’s immigrants are Francophone by 2020. Commissioner d’Entremont urges the two levels of government to work closely together to preserve the vitality of the province’s Francophone community. “Immigration is a shared jurisdiction. For Francophones in New Brunswick to maintain their 33% share of the population, the federal and provincial governments must adopt a long-term concerted approach.”

While acknowledging government efforts with regard to Francophone immigration in Canada, the commissioners feel that results have been slow in coming. Consequently, they believe it is imperative that the following four guiding principles be adopted:

  • Immigration must help maintain, and even increase, the demographic weight of Francophone minority communities in Canada.
  • Federal and provincial immigration policies and programs must be designed and tailored to address Francophone immigrant recruitment, integration and retention needs specific to the different contexts of Francophone minority communities across Canada.
  • Strong federal-provincial-community partnerships, long-term strategies for the selection, recruitment, welcoming, education, integration and retention of immigrants, and sufficient resources are needed to ensure that immigration supports the development and vitality of Francophone minority communities.
  • Governments must develop an evaluation and accountability framework to measure progress achieved and ensure attainment of immigration objectives in Francophone minority communities.

In 2012 and 2013, the three commissioners signed agreements to, among other things, increase cooperation and discussion among their respective offices. It is in that spirit that the three commissioners are tackling the immigration issue.

 

– 30 –

Patricia Parent
Manager
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
Telephone: 506-444-4229
Toll-free: 1-888-651-6444 (in NB only)
E-mail: patricia.parent@gnb.ca
www.officiallanguages.nb.ca

Nelson Kalil
Manager, Strategic Communications
and Media Relations
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
Telephone: 819-420-4714
Cellular: 613-324-0999
Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368
E-mail: nelson.kalil@clo-ocol.gc.ca
Follow us @OCOLCanada

Kim Bergeron
Public Relations and Communications Officer
Office of the French Language Services Commissioner
Telephone: 416-314-8247
Toll-free: 1-866-246-5262
E-mail: kim.bergeron@ontario.ca
Follow us @FLSCOntario

June 17, 2014

2013-2014 Annual Report

Commissioner of Official Languages Proposes Measures for Improving Delivery of Bilingual Services

Fredericton, June 17, 2014 – In her first annual report, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Katherine d’Entremont, presents five recommendations for improving the delivery of government services in both official languages. Specifically, d’Entremont proposes that the required levels of second-language proficiency for bilingual positions be more clearly defined and better monitored. 

“Over the past few months, we have examined how the provincial government recruits and manages its human resources in order to deliver bilingual services to the public," the Commissioner said. “Our study points to serious deficiencies with respect to the identification of bilingual staffing needs, required levels of second-language proficiency, and the effectiveness of language training for civil servants. These deficiencies are often the cause of the complaints we receive and must be addressed.”

To provide the public with services in both languages, provincial departments form teams made up of unilingual and bilingual employees.  However, according to the Commissioner’s study, the levels of second-language proficiency of bilingual employees are not clearly defined or monitored. “This situation compromises service quality," the Commissioner said. “The government must show more rigour.” The Commissioner’s study notes as well that the required level of second-language proficiency for a bilingual position is not indicated in the job posting.  “How can a candidate determine whether he or she is qualified for a bilingual position without knowing the proficiency level required?” asks the Commissioner.    

Official Languages and Health

The Commissioner’s annual report addresses a number of issues, including immigration, changes to the Official Languages Act, and access to health care in both official languages. The Commissioner comments on the results of the most recent acute care survey carried out by the New Brunswick Health Council.

Ms. d’Entremont believes that the two health authorities must step up their efforts in order to fully meet their linguistic obligations. The Commissioner is very concerned about the situation at hospitals in the Horizon Health Network. “In some facilities, access to health care in French is the exception rather that the rule,” the Commissioner explained. “This situation requires robust corrective measures.” 

Government Plan on Official Languages

One chapter of the Commissioner’s annual report examines the Government Plan on Official Languages. Commissioner d’Entremont is disappointed with the lack of tangible results arising from this initiative. “The plan outlines important measures for ensuring better compliance with the Official Languages Act,” the Commissioner explained. “Yet one year following the initial expiration of the plan, the provincial government has very few results to present. There is reason to question the importance government attaches to this plan.”  

Commissioner highlights inspiring practices

In addition, Katherine d’Entremont pays tribute to public servants and groups of employees who embody excellence in official bilingualism. The award recipients are as follows:

• Judge Yvette Finn
• Teachers’ collective agreement negotiating team
• Staff of the Policy and Planning Division of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
• Staff of the Financial and Consumer Services Commission
• Guylaine Godin, New Brunswick Internal Services Agency
• Cécile LePage and employees of the Policy and Planning Branch of the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture

“I congratulate these champions in the promotion of our two official languages, and I hope that by sharing their stories, they will be an inspiration for all public servants, our elected officials, and the general public,” said Commissioner d'Entremont.

-30-

The 2013-2014 annual report is available online.

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

April 24, 2014

Ambulance New Brunswick – New Brunswick’s Official Languages Commissioner urges the Department of Health to step in to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act

Fredericton, April 24, 2014 – New Brunswick’s Official Languages Commissioner, Katherine d’Entremont, is urging the Department of Health to assume its responsibilities and require that Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB) comply with the Official Languages Act. That is the first recommendation made by the Commissioner in an investigation report following an incident which occurred in September 2013. Ambulance NB has acknowledged that neither of the two ambulance attendants dispatched to assist a Dieppe resident was able to speak French.

“This is not only a matter of linguistic rights,” said the Commissioner. In an emergency situation, communication must be clear, concise and timely. Attempting to assist a person without speaking his or her language may have life-threatening consequences. Yet, Ambulance NB has continued to use unilingual ambulance crews. This is unacceptable.”

Commissioner d’Entremont explained that the contract between Ambulance NB and the New Brunswick government contains a provision on compliance with the Official Languages Act. “My message to the government is clear: take the necessary measures to ensure compliance with this provision of the contract.”

Katherine d’Entremont met recently with senior management of the Department of Health to present the investigation report. She explained that the Commissioner’s office has written six investigation reports on Ambulance NB over the past 7 years. “The situation needs to change. The Department of Health must take action to ensure that corrective measures are taken.”

In a 2008 investigation report by the Commissioner’s Office concerning Ambulance NB, the Department of Health confirmed that it requires that there be at least one person able to speak both official languages within each paramedic team. In her current investigation report, Katherine d’Entremont recommends that ANB standardize the level of language proficiency required for bilingual ambulance attendants. “The level of bilingualism required by Ambulance NB varies from region to region,” the Commissioner explained. “It is inconceivable that ANB could fulfill its linguistic obligations with such a system. Ambulance NB must provide services of equal quality in both official languages throughout the province.”

The Commissioner noted that the Premier is responsible for the administration of the Official Languages Act and expects he will ask his Minister of Health to intervene in this matter.

-30-

The investigation report about Ambulance New Brunswick is available on the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages’ website.

Note

Under section 43(17.2) of the Official Languages of Act of New Brunswick, “if the Commissioner considers it to be in the public interest, the Commissioner may publish a report on the results of his or her investigation and on any recommendations made as a result of the investigation.”

It should be noted that the complainant’s name does not appear in the investigation report in order to preserve that person’s anonymity. The complainant was informed that this investigation report would be published.

Information

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

April 3, 2014

Immigration to New Brunswick – Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick urges the provincial and federal governments to protect the vitality of the Francophone community

Fredericton, April 3, 2014 – New Brunswick’s Official Languages Commissioner, Katherine d’Entremont, is urging the governments of New Brunswick and Canada to adopt a framework agreement on Francophone immigration in order to maintain the demographic weight of this province’s Francophone community.

Katherine d’Entremont noted that recent data show that the Francophone community of New Brunswick, which makes up about one-third of the provincial population, has not benefitted from immigration as much as the Anglophone community.

“The Canadian Constitution is clear: the Francophone community and the Anglophone community of New Brunswick have equality of status,” said the Commissioner. “The provincial and federal governments therefore have to take the measures necessary to ensure that their immigration policies, programs and practices do not disadvantage one community over the other.”

An analysis1 by the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities shows that the vast majority (81.1%) of recent immigrants to New Brunswick reported English as their first official language spoken in 2011 whereas only 11.7% reported French. Moreover, the results of the New Brunswick Nominee Program – a program under which the provincial government selects immigration candidates – are no more impressive. In 2012-2013, the percentage of French-speaking and bilingual (English and French) candidates was only 12.2% of all candidates welcomed to the province.

“These results clearly demonstrate that efforts have to be stepped up to correct an imbalance that, in the long term, compromises the demographic weight of the Francophone community in the only officially bilingual province,” said d’Entremont.

The Commissioner is pleased with the intent of the provincial government to release a new strategy on Francophone immigration in the near future. However, she believes this new strategy needs to be based on a close partnership between the two levels of government.

“To meet the challenge of Francophone immigration to New Brunswick, a framework agreement between the two levels of government must be established”, said d’Entremont. “First and foremost, this agreement would affirm New Brunswick’s unique linguistic status. It would establish that immigration programs and practices of both levels of government must maintain the demographic weight of the two official linguistic communities. It would also affirm the duty to compensate for past imbalances in immigration rates.”

Commissioner d’Entremont considers immigration to be a fundamental pillar for the future of New Brunswick and that a framework must be clearly defined to ensure that immigration benefits both official linguistic communities equally.

“Over the past few years, Francophone immigration to New Brunswick has been a topic of interest to our two levels of government,” said d’Entremont. “It must now become a priority”.

1 Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, 2012-2013 Annual Report, page 27

For more information

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506 444-4229
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

April 1, 2014

Language commissioners meet in Barcelona for the inaugural conference of the International Association of Language Commissioners

Fredericton, March 31, 2014 – Language commissioners from around the world gathered on March 21, 2014, in Barcelona, Spain for the inaugural conference of the newly established International Association of Language Commissioners (IALC).

Participants at the conference came from places as varied as Finland, Hungary, Kosovo and Ireland. They discussed issues such as language rights and challenges in an era of globalization and the impact of minority-language education on the preservation and advancement of minority languages. Case studies on the impact of investigations conducted by commissioners’ offices on language rights were also discussed. In addition, round-table discussions were held on the role that the IALC can play in sharing investigation best practices and in promoting language-related research.

During this event, the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont, gave a presentation on the role of Francophone schools in the protection and development of the francophone community in this province.  ‘’Duality within the school system provides a solid foundation for the development of the Francophone and Acadian community of New Brunswick,” she explained. “Our provincial education system generates tremendous interest in other parts of the world as it could serve as a model in multilingual countries.’’

“It has been a great privilege to have our inaugural conference in Barcelona” said Graham Fraser, Chairman of the IALC. “We all appreciated the great hospitality of our host, the Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó”. The IALC was created last May in Dublin, Ireland. Its mission is to support and advance language rights, equality and diversity throughout the world and to help language commissioners work to the highest professional standards. This will be achieved by:

• Sharing experiences and exchanging knowledge of best practices;
• Advising and assisting in the establishment of language commissioners’ offices;
• Facilitating an exchange of training and professional development resources, research and information;
• Cooperating with like-minded organizations that value the promotion and protection of language rights and diversity.

Current membership in the IALC includes representatives from regions and countries with language commissioners, including Catalonia, Wales, Ireland, Kosovo, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Canada (including New Brunswick, Ontario, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories).

The next IALC conference will take place in Ottawa, Canada, in the spring of 2015.

Information

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506-444-4229
Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

February 19, 2014

Official Languages Commissioner announces a contest for youth

Fredericton, February 19, 2014 – New Brunswick’s Official Languages Commissioner, Katherine d’Entremont, is inviting young New Brunswickers under the age of 19 to take part in a contest on the twotalk.ca website. Eligible participants will be entered into a draw for a chance to win one of five 16-GB Apple iPad Air tablets.

Fredericton, February 19, 2014 – New Brunswick’s Official Languages Commissioner, Katherine d’Entremont, is inviting young New Brunswickers under the age of 19 to take part in a contest on the twotalk.ca website. Eligible participants will be entered into a draw for a chance to win one of five 16-GB Apple iPad Air tablets.

“A key role of the Commissioner is to promote the advancement of both official languages in the province,” said Katherine d’Entremont. “The twotalk.ca website is our main tool for promoting bilingualism and language vitality among young people. It’s chock full of resources, and we want it to be the go-to site for young New Brunswickers to broaden their knowledge of one of the most important features of New Brunswick – being the only officially bilingual province in Canada.’’

The contest runs until March 22, 2014. To participate, young New Brunswickers are asked to visit the contest page on the twotalk.ca website and answer the weekly question. A total of five questions will be asked.

“The twotalk.ca website features a wide range of content designed specifically for a young audience,” said d'Entremont. “It offers humorous video clips, testimonials from young New Brunswickers, and language quizzes.”

The contest is made possible with the financial support of a Canada-New Brunswick Agreement. Visit twotalk.ca for the full contest rules. Please note that parental consent is required to participate.

For more information

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of Public Affairs and Research
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick
506 444-4229
Hugues.beaulieu@gnb.ca

August 16, 2013

Access to justice in both official languages: The commissioners urge the federal Minister of Justice to take action

For immediate release 

Access to justice in both official languages: The commissioners urge the federal Minister of Justice to take action

Ottawa, August 16, 2013 — The Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada and his counterparts from Ontario and New Brunswick are recommending that the federal Minister of Justice take 10 measures to ensure Canadians have access to justice in both official languages. These recommendations are the result of a joint study on the bilingual capacity of Canada’s superior courts, which was released today by the three commissioners.

“In a country that proudly claims linguistic duality is a fundamental value and an essential part of its identity, no one should have to deal with delays and additional costs because they chose to be heard in English or French,” said Graham Fraser. 

The three commissioners reviewed the judicial appointment process for superior courts as well as the language training available to judges. The study found that the appointment process does not allow for a sufficient number of judges with the language skills needed to hear citizens in the minority official language.

“Currently, there is no coordinated action from the federal Minister of Justice, his provincial and territorial counterparts and the chief justices to ensure adequate bilingual capacity at all times in superior courts. A collaborative approach is at the heart of the proposed recommendations,” said François Boileau, French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario.

The study also noted that, for some judges, maintaining their language skills is a challenge. Although the language training program currently offered by the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs is appreciated by superior court judges, the commissioners recommend that the program be improved.

“Specifically, the applied training workshops that are currently offered in New Brunswick to provincial court judges could be interesting models to explore for superior court judges,” suggested Katherine d’Entremont, Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick.

The study recommends 10 concrete and pragmatic courses of action that will improve the bilingual capacity of the judiciary of superior courts. The commissioners are urging the federal Minister of Justice to ensure a quick and collaborative implementation of these recommendations.

“The consequences of inaction are real for the citizens who must contend with the judicial system and who are not guaranteed to be heard in their official language of choice. If the federal Minister of Justice does nothing, then it’s the status quo. And the status quo is unacceptable,” concluded Graham Fraser. 

The study Access to Justice in Both Official Languages: Improving the Bilingual Capacity of the Superior Court Judiciary is available at www.officiallanguages.gc.ca.

– 30 –

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

At the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada: Nelson KALIL
Manager, Strategic Communications and Media Relations
Telephone: 613-995-0374
Cellular: 613-324-0999
Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368
E-mail: nelson.kalil@ocol-clo.gc.ca

At the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario: Simon CÔTÉ
Public Relations and Communications Officer
Telephone: 416-314-8247
Toll-free: 1-866-246-5262
E-mail: communications.flsccsf@ontario.ca

At the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick: Hugues BEAULIEU
Director of Public Affairs and Research
Telephone: 506-444-4229
Toll-free: 1-888-651-6444
E-mail: hugues.beaulieu@gnb.ca

 

Access to Justice in Both Official Languages: Improving the Bilingual Capacity of the Superior Court Judiciary

HIGHLIGHTS

Background
• The matter of access to justice in the superior courts requires action by both the federal government and the provincial governments, the latter being responsible for operating these courts and the former for appointing the judges.

 
• For the two million Canadians who are members of Anglophone or Francophone minority communities to have access—at all times and without additional cost—to judges with the language skills necessary to hear cases in the minority language, the federal Minister of Justice must appoint an appropriate number of bilingual judges.

• In a criminal case, Canadians are entitled to a preliminary hearing and a trial in the official language of their choice, regardless of where in the country the case will be heard. 

• In the superior courts, approximately 2/3 of the judges (648 out of a total of 1,017) hear cases in provinces and territories that require them to respect the language rights of citizens in non-criminal cases, including in the areas of family law, wills and estates law, contract and commercial law, and bankruptcy law.

Scope of the study

• The purpose of the study was to determine the extent to which the process for appointing judges to superior courts guarantees an appropriate number of bilingual judges. Its aim was not to determine whether there is a shortage of bilingual judges.

• The study deals solely with the bilingual capacity of judges sitting in “superior courts,” meaning (1) superior trial courts, the names of which vary across Canada and include courts of Queen’s Bench, provincial supreme courts and provincial superior courts; and (2) courts of appeal. The study does not examine the bilingual capacity of the Supreme Court of Canada.

• The expression “bilingual capacity of the judiciary” is defined as the presence of an appropriate number of bilingual judges in the superior courts, in other words, judges with the necessary language skills to preside over hearings in the minority official language.

• To get a sense of the challenges related to the bilingual capacity of superior court judges on a national scale, the study looked at the situation in the superior courts of six provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Methodology
• In support of the study, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages formed an advisory committee of representatives from the legal community, including the Canadian Judicial Council, the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau du Québec, the Fédération des associations des juristes d’expression française de common law and the Centre canadien de français juridique. 

• The study is based on quantitative and qualitative information gathered through on-line surveys of members of French-language jurists’ associations and a sample of members of the Quebec bar, along with interviews designed to elicit more detail on the results of the survey.

Findings 
• Consultations during the study showed that the judicial appointment process does not guarantee the presence of an appropriate number of judges with the necessary language skills if the superior courts are to respect the language rights of Canadians at all times.

• This finding is based on three key observations:
1) There is no objective analysis of needs in terms of access to the superior courts in both official languages in the different districts and regions of the country.

2) There is no coordinated action on the part of the federal Minister of Justice, his provincial and territorial counterparts and the chief justices of the superior courts to establish a process that would ensure, at all times, that an appropriate number of bilingual judges are appointed.

3) The evaluation of superior court judicial candidates does not allow for an objective verification of the language skills of candidates who identify themselves as being able to preside over proceedings in their second language.

Recommendations
• The study contains 10 recommendations that are addressed primarily to the federal Minister of Justice, but also to his provincial and territorial counterparts as well as the chief justices of the superior courts. The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the federal Minister of Justice:

1) Take measures, by September 1, 2014, in collaboration with his provincial and territorial counterparts, to ensure appropriate bilingual capacity in the judiciary of Canada’s superior courts at all times;

2) Establish, together with the attorneys general and the chief justices of superior courts of each province and territory, a memorandum of understanding to:
• set the terms of this collaborative approach;
• adopt a common definition of the level of language skills required of bilingual judges so that they can preside over proceedings in their second language;
• identify the appropriate number of bilingual judges and/or designated bilingual positions;

3) Encourage the attorneys general of each province and territory to initiate a consultation process with the judiciary and the bar, with the participation of the French-speaking common law jurists’ association or the legal community of the linguistic minority population, to take into consideration their point of view on the appropriate number of bilingual judges or designated bilingual positions;

4) Re-evaluate the bilingual capacity of the superior courts, periodically or when changes occur that are likely to have an impact on access to justice in the minority language, together with the attorneys general and chief justices of the superior courts of each province and territory;

5) Give the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs the mandate of implementing a process to systematically, independently and objectively evaluate the language skills of all candidates who identified the level of their language skills on their application form.
 

July 24, 2013

Statement by the new Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick

Fredericton, July 24, 2013 – Statement by Katherine d’Entremont, as she assumes her new role as the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick:

It is with great enthusiasm that I undertake my duties this week as the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick.

I feel very honoured to have been chosen to succeed Michel Carrier. Indeed, I want to thank him for his work and dedication. To his credit, he has built an excellent reputation for the Commissioner's office.

I had the good fortune to grow up in a bilingual and bicultural home – my mother was Anglophone, my father, Francophone. That enabled me to discover early on the vast cultural richness of our province. It is one of our most important resources for our future.

The Official Languages Act expresses our desire to live together, while ensuring the preservation of our two languages and the development of our two linguistic communities. This is a wonderful societal undertaking in which we can all participate.

As Commissioner, I must ensure that all public institutions are compliant with their linguistic obligations. I must also promote the advancement of our two official languages. This is a major responsibility that I will carry out with integrity and rigour.

Over the coming weeks, my staff and I will determine this office’s course in the light of the legacy of my predecessor and the recent changes to the Official Languages Act. These amendments look very promising for the future.

-30-

The Commissioner’s biography can be viewed on the Office’s website.

Information:

Hugues Beaulieu

Director, Public Affairs and Research

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

Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca

June 17, 2013

Statement by the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Michel Carrier

Fredericton, June 17, 2013 – As an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly, I participated in the revision process of the Official Languages Act.

I have stated publicly my proposed amendments to the Act on numerous occasions. Last week, in tabling my final annual report, I reiterated my position on this matter.

On June 14th, the provincial government introduced a bill to amend the Official Languages Act. It is now up to the MLAs to study this bill and to take action to fully achieve the objectives of this Act.

I will refrain from making further comments on this issue out of respect for the legislative process.

June 10, 2013

2012-2013 Annual Report

Commissioner Carrier presents his final annual report

Fredericton, June 10, 2013 – The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Michel Carrier, tabled his final annual report today.  As he completes his second mandate, Mr. Carrier believes that the Legislative Assembly and the provincial government need to do more in order to preserve the vitality of the French language in New Brunswick.  

The Commissioner’s annual report provides an analysis of the 2011 census data, carried out by the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities. The analysis confirms a slight decline in the use of French in New Brunswick according to four linguistic characteristics: knowledge of French, language spoken most often at home, first official language spoken and mother tongue.  It also confirms that immigration in New Brunswick does not support equally the vitality of both official languages.  

“After reading this analysis, my conclusion is clear: we cannot take for granted the vitality of the French language in New Brunswick,” the Commissioner stated. “To ensure the future of the language, we must work together on all of the factors that affect its vitality.” 

Michel Carrier finds it regrettable that the provincial government still does not have a long-term strategy for Francophone immigration nor clear guidelines to ensure that the linguistic balance is maintained in New Brunswick. “Two years ago, I made two recommendations in that regard. The government informed me that it was going to act; however, I still have not seen any document, which is disappointing.”  

Language of Work in the Civil Service

 The annual report indicates that 88% of the words translated by the New Brunswick Translation Bureau are from English to French. “This percentage seems to indicate that civil servants write very little in French,” explained the Commissioner. “It is quite easy to imagine the consequences of such a practice for the vitality of French within the civil service.”

Michel Carrier recommended that the right of civil servants to work in the official language of their choice be included in the Official Languages Act. However the Select Committee on the Revision of the Official Languages Act did not retain this recommendation. “In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, New Brunswick commits to protecting and promoting our two official languages,” he stated. “How then can we not include a measure designed to ensure an equal use of English and French within the government in the Official Languages Act?”

New Brunswick Translation Bureau: the Commissioner is concerned

Among the topics dealt with in the 2012-2013 annual report, the results of the study on the New Brunswick Translation Bureau should be highlighted. The Commissioner indicated that he was concerned about certain changes imposed on the organization.  “To a large extent, the Translation Bureau makes it possible for the provincial government to comply with its constitutional obligations,"   he explained, “therefore sufficient resources are required to allow it to do its work. The study we conducted exposed some worrisome facts: reduction of the Bureau’s basic budget, elimination of translation allocations to departments, and reduction of revenues linked to a significant decrease in the number of words translated. This situation worries me, and that is why I am asking the Premier to ensure that the Translation Bureau has the necessary resources to fulfill its role effectively.”

Complaints

In 2012-2013, the Commissioner’s office handled 149 complaints, most having to do with the lack of French-language services.

New promotional tool for bilingualism and duality

With respect to promotional activities, Mr. Carrier announced that the Office’s website now offers a series of video vignettes on official bilingualism, linguistic duality and language vitality. “I wish to thank the New Brunswickers who agreed to share their thoughts on these subjects. I believe that these vignettes will contribute significantly to a better understanding of what makes our province  unique.”  

End of Commissioner Carrier’s term of office

Michel Carrier is leaving his duties as Commissioner with a sense of accomplishment. “During my two mandates, I have applied myself to convincing the government that it needed an action plan to implement the Act. This plan has been adopted and I have high hopes that it will lead to substantial progress.  

The Commissioner considers the review of the Official Languages Act to be an ideal opportunity to continue this progress towards linguistic equality. "We have dedicated ourselves to a noble societal undertaking, which becomes especially meaningful insofar as we continue to make a concerted effort to build on it. The review of the Act is an opportunity that should be seized in that regard. To move forward, we must aim higher and go further,” he concluded.  

  -30-

The 2012-2013 annual report is available online.

Information:

Hugues Beaulieu

Director, Public Affairs and Research

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

Hugues.Beaulieu@gnb.ca