November 15, 2004

Commissioner of Official Languages Submits First Annual Report

Fredericton, November 15, 2004 – The first Commissioner of Official Languages, Michel Carrier, has submitted his first annual report, for 2003-2004, to the Legislative Assembly, in accordance with the new Official Languages Act (OLA).

In the annual report, which covers the first year of operation of his office, the Commissioner discusses the evolution of official languages in New Brunswick, his mandate and role, the setting up of his office, the establishment of a procedure for filing and handling complaints, and the complaints received.

Although the Commissioner’s first annual report is rather general in scope, it nonetheless devotes space to making the provincial government aware of deficiencies with regard to the active offer of services in both official languages. “Active offer” refers to the obligation that a provincial government institution has under section 28.1 of the OLA to “ensure that appropriate measures are taken to make it known to members of the public that its services are available in the official language of their choice.”

The Commissioner notes that, despite the progress that has been made in the province in the area of official languages, much remains to be done: “There is still work to be done: an active offer of services in both official languages is not automatic in all government institutions, including health care institutions; members of the public do not automatically have access to services in the language of their choice in all hospitals in the province, particularly in the regions with an Anglophone majority; and Francophones hired for public service positions in the province still cannot take it for granted that they will be able to work in their language.”

The Figures

The Commissioner opened 204 files during his office’s first year of operation, including 74 admissible complaints, 69 inadmissible complaints, 29 complaints referred to other appropriate institutions, and 32 requests for information. The admissible complaints fall into the categories of in-person services and communications with the public. He notes that the absolute number of complaints received by an institution does not necessarily indicate the relative importance of those complaints. He cites the 11 complaints received concerning the provincial election. “Although the number of complaints is minimal in absolute terms, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything went off without a hitch in the last provincial election,” he said. “It is reasonable to conclude that, since complainants reported that no active offer was made at some polling stations at certain times of day, then all the other people who went to that polling station on that day did not have access to the services required under the OLA.”

Mr. Carrier sees himself as a sort of gatekeeper on the public’s behalf regarding compliance with the OLA and says that he alone cannot play the role of agent of change with respect to the promotion of English and French in the province. He expresses his conviction that all citizens must do their part to advance the equality of both official languages but stresses the fact that the Legislative Assembly and the government are primarily responsible for that advancement.

More specifically, the Official Languages Act “confirms our collective values of equality and equal opportunity for all. It is intended to change our individual and collective attitudes and behaviours such that the principles of equality of status and equal rights and privileges become a reality. That is the challenge presented by the Act.”

Role of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick

The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is an officer of the Legislature. He investigates complaints and makes recommendations with respect to compliance with the Official Languages Act. The Commissioner communicates the results of the investigation and any recommendations, including any opinion and the reasons for the recommendations, to the Premier, the deputy minister or other administrative head of the institution concerned and the complainant. The Commissioner can investigate pursuant to a complaint he receives or on his own initiative.

The Commissioner is mandated to receive and investigate complaints regarding government institutions as they are defined under the OLA.

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For more information, please contact Giselle Goguen, Director of Public Affairs and Strategic Planning, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, at (506) 444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444.

June 21, 2004

Bilingualism at the forefront: the Commissioner of Official Languages is proud of the progress achieved in the area of official languages

Fredericton, N.B. -June 21, 2004: Last Wednesday, at Old Government House, Dialogue New Brunswick awarded its Lieutenant-Governor Prix Dialogue Award. This prestigious award is given annually to persons or organizations that have distinguished themselves for their involvement in the advancement of bilingualism in New Brunswick.

As Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Mr. Michel Carrier wishes to congratulate Honourable Louis J. Robichaud, former Premier of New Brunswick and Mrs. Lyne Raymond, Vice-President of the 2003 Bathurst-Campbellton Canada Winter Games Host Society. He also wishes to pay tribute to the late Honourable Richard Hatfield, former Premier of New Brunswick, who was awarded the recognition posthumously.

The former Premier of New Brunswick, Louis J. Robichaud, in his acknowledgment remarks, told the group how proud he was of the progress accomplished since 1960, including the progress during the years Richard Hatfield was in power. He believes New Brunswick is an example for the rest of the country in the area of bilingualism.

Mr. Carrier reiterates the comments of Louis J. Robichaud in applauding the progress New Brunswick has achieved in the area of official languages, particularly in bringing together the two official language communities of the Province. For the Commissioner, that progress can be attributed to the vision and determination demonstrated by Louis J. Robichaud and Richard Hatfield. “These two politicians were able to translate their convictions regarding equality and respect into concrete actions that have definitely resulted in the social changes in New Brunswick in the area of official bilingualism and recognition of equality between the English and French linguistic communities. Thanks to their leadership, New Brunswick is effectively an example for the rest of the country.”

For the Commissioner of Official Languages, the task accomplished by Louis J. Robichaud and Richard Hatfield and by their respective political parties has created an environment of inclusion and of respect that favours an easy and necessary cooperation between the province’s two official linguistic communities. One has but to consider the enormous success of the 2003 Bathurst-Campbellton Canada Winter Games Host Society in bringing to that region bilingual winter games. “I can but recognize and acknowledge, with much admiration and gratitude, the enormous task of coordination, of planning and of motivation that made it possible to organize the 2003 Canada Winter Games where 70% of the events were held in both official languages of the province and of the country. I wish to congratulate Mrs. Lyne Raymond, Vice-President of the Society for making us feel proud during these games.”

Mr. Carrier recognizes the excellent work accomplished by Dialogue New Brunswick in promoting bilingualism and bridging the gap between anglophone and francophone citizens of the province. According to him, this unifying organization greatly contributes to quality of life in New Brunswick with its continued and visionary efforts.

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For more information, please contact Ronald LeBreton, Director, Public Affairs and Strategic Planning, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, (506) 444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444.

May 3, 2004

Provincial French Pride Week 2004 – Literacy Contest

Congratulations to Mathieu Larocque, of “la Polyvalente Marie-Esther” in Shippagan and to Marie-Christine Arpin, of “l’École Marie-Gaétane” in Kedgwick, grade 12 students who have each been awarded a bursary in the amount of $1,000 from the Université de Moncton during the 15th annual Provincial French Pride Week. Both Mathieu and Marie-Christine were awarded this bursary after winning first place amongst the participants to the literary contest. In order to be considered, the essays submitted had to express a thought or opinion and be centered around the theme of « En français je suis né, née, en français je vivrai » (I was born in French, and I’ll live in French).

We wish them both great success in their university studies.

Click on the links below to read the winning essays (French only).

Mathieu Larocque

Marie-Christine Arpin

April 1, 2004

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick celebrates its first anniversary

Fredericton, N.B. – April 1, 2004: This Spring day of 2004 marks the first anniversary of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick and of the designation of Michel Carrier as the first Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick. “A considerable part of my time during this first year of operation was taken to set up the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, to establish complaints procedures and to establish a network of cooperation with other organizations and individuals in the area of official languages. Our staff and I also devoted substantial time to the dissemination of information on the Official Languages Act and the role of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

At this time, the Commissioner can only provide a partial appraisal of the work accomplished by his Office to date. A more complete evaluation will be presented in his annual report to the Legislature which should be ready early next fall. However, he is quite proud of the work accomplished in such a short period of time. “I cannot but take note of the positive attitudes demonstrated by the public and governmental institutions regarding the necessity for bilingualism in New Brunswick. Indeed, I am very encouraged by the fact that governmental institutions and individuals in leadership capacities recognize that there is still place for improvement in many areas of service delivery and I sense that there is a genuine willingness on their part to do what is necessary to satisfy the requirements of the Official Languages Act.

Surveys continue to affirm the public’s support for bilingualism in the Province and in fact, our own assessment following our meetings and discussions with many New Brunswickers confirm that the public accepts the principle that all citizens of the province must enjoy equal access to services of equal quality in the official language of their choice. That being said, there is still much to be done to ensure that the principles of equality enshrined in the Official Languages Act lead to a genuine equality in the area of official languages. I see my role as Commissioner of Official Languages as one of contributing positively to social changes which reflect these principles of equality.”

For Michel Carrier, this positive attitude towards bilingualism augurs well for the Province and for the establishment of conditions and mechanisms that will help New Brunswick compete in the global economy while respecting principles of equality. The Commissioner also appreciates the commitment of some members of the business community to the necessity for businesses to become bilingual. They recognized more and more that bilingualism is a considerable economic advantage in an ever-competing business environment.

“The province of New Brunswick can be proud of its accomplishments in the establishment of official languages. We constitute an example for the rest of the country, a model to emulate with regard to respect for the linguistic rights of the English and French linguistic communities. I consider that our challenge at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is to contribute positively in building a society that is open to both its official languages, open to members of the diverse cultures who speak one or both of these languages and open to the world as a whole. We must continue building on our successes in that area.”

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For more information, please contact Ronald LeBreton, Director, Public Affairs and Strategic Planning, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, (506) 444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444.

March 15, 2004

The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick praises the French sector of the Department of Education for organizing La semaine de la fierté française

FREDERICTON (NB) – March 15, 2004: The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick takes advantage of this day of opening ceremonies for La semaine de la fierté française (French Pride Week) at the Centre La fontaine School in Neguac to congratulate the Department of Education for this excellent initiative promoting the French language among the province's French speaking students.

The theme of this year's French Pride Week is En français je suis né, en français je vivrai (I was born in French, in French I will live). "This theme serves to raise the awareness of children to their heritage and to the importance of strengthening and preserving their culture, without the exclusion of other cultures but with their inclusion for the enrichment of us all." said Michel Carrier.

The Commissioner is of the opinion that the French linguistic community of New Brunswick must adopt strategies to enhance its fulfillment and vitality on all levels, particularly in the area of education. In spite of the fact that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Official Languages Act stipulate that both the English and French linguistic communities have equal status, rights and privileges, it is necessary in a minority setting, to have in place special measures to ensure this equality and its affirmation.

The French Pride Week is educational in nature being under the sponsorship of the Department of Education and its partners in the area of education. We must be proud of this excellent initiative whose object is the promotion of French through the arts. This program encourages professional artists, through a competition, to create a work of art depicting the theme of the year and it provides opportunities for students in the school system, to create in French in the various disciplines of drawing, writing and the production of short video productions."

The Commissioner is of the opinion that this worthwhile promotion of the French language and culture falls squarely within the obligations that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Official Languages Act impose on the government of New Brunswick, that is: to advance the status, rights and privileges of both linguistic communities in the province.

"I take this opportunity, on this first day of the fifteenth edition of La semaine de la fierté française, to congratulate Madeleine Dubé, Minister of Education and her staff for a job well done. There is no doubt that such an initiative will have beneficial repercussions for us all."

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For more information, please contact Ronald LeBreton, Director, Public Affairs and Strategic Planning, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, (506) 444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444.

February 19, 2004

Radio-Canada – 50 years in Atlantic Canada

FREDERICTON, N.B.: – February 19, 2004: The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Michel Carrier, takes the opportunity to wish Radio-Canada a Happy 50th Anniversary. On the 20th of February, 1954, the CBC's French network established itself as the first French language radio production centre of Radio-Canada in Atlantic Canada.

For Mr. Carrier, the 20th of February, 1954 represents the beginning of a new visible and permanent affirmation of the French language and culture in New Brunswick. "There is no doubt that the establishment of a permanent regional base for Radio-Canada in Moncton in 1954, contributed greatly to the promotion of the advancement of the French language in the greater Moncton area and later, in the whole of the Atlantic region. From that date on, the French speaking linguistic community has had an effective means for bringing that community together and for the promotion of what it represents."

The Commissioner of Official Languages sees Radio-Canada as a significant social tool for enhancing the French linguistic community's opportunity to see itself reflected in the media and to perceive itself as a vibrant cultural entity with full participation in the building of New Brunswick and Canada. "Radio-Canada is doing its share in the progression toward effective equality and use of the French language as one of the official languages of the only officially bilingual province in the country. It is to the degree to which the French language community perceives itself as being autonomous in its means for development and to which it feels empowered, that it will more easily be able to transact on an equal footing with its English speaking counterpart."

For the Commissioner, it matters that school-aged Francophone children be able to confirm their French heritage in the environment, through such means as radio and television in the French language. The effect of this means of communications, is to support the work done by teachers in the French language school system and of parents in the home setting.

Mr. Carrier considers that Radio-Canada contributes to a bringing together of the province's two linguistic communities, since its services are accessible to those members of the English speaking community who wish to take advantage of French radio and television stations in a minority setting. By this means, they can enrich their knowledge of the French language and benefit from a greater familiarization with the French culture in America. "It is also of great import that young Anglophones who wish to learn French or further their knowledge of French, be able to access quality radio and television programs in French. As learning tools, they can enhance the teaching they get at school in the French language. Radio-Canada is fulfilling its role very well in this area and I am certain it will continue to do so."

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For more information, please contact Ronald LeBreton, Director, Public Affairs and Strategic Planning, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, (506) 444-4758 or 1-888-651-6444.

December 22, 2003

Preliminary Investigation Report regarding Electoral Process

FREDERICTON, N.B. – December 22, 2003: The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Michel Carrier, Q.C., has submitted his preliminary investigation report to Premier Bernard Lord and Chief Electoral Officer Annise Hollies, with copies being sent to the complainants.

The Commissioner has the mandate to investigate, report on, and make recommendations with regard to compliance with the Official Languages Act. He is also responsible for promoting the advancement of both official languages in the province.

In response to complaints concerning access to services in the language of choice of the persons concerned, at the time of voter enumeration and voting during the last provincial election, the Commissioner carried out an investigation involving the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), returning officers, and the presidents of the political parties concerned.

The complaints received are as follows:

  • Three complainants were unable to receive service in the official language of their choice from enumerators.
  • Seven complainants had difficulty receiving or were unable to receive service in the official language of their choice at their polling station.
  • One complainant was concerned that some of the information contained on the Web site of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer for New Brunswick was available in only one official language.

In addition to the above complaints, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages was made aware of a number of reports in the media and letters to the editor concerning lack of service in the official language of choice during the electoral process.

Conclusions

Although the Commissioner was informed and took note of substantial improvements in the election procedures, he concluded that, during the last election, the right to language of choice of the persons concerned was not complied with as required by the Official Languages Act. In fact, the Commissioner’s investigation clearly identified notable deficiencies in the electoral process, particularly as it relates to the establishment of an environment and a framework conducive to this government institution’s meeting its obligation to serve members of the public in the language of their choice and to clearly and specifically inform them of this obligation.

The Commissioner identified several areas of non-compliance with the Official Languages Act, notably the active offer of service in both official languages, equality of access to services, the selection criteria for election officers, the selection of election officers where there is a lack of competent staff in the language concerned, communications with the offices of returning officers, the lists of potential election officers, and the obligation to publish in both official languages.

Recommendations

The Commissioner made 13 recommendations concerning the procedures utilized relating to the selection of election officers, the active offer of service in the language of choice, and the other areas of non-compliance with the Official Languages Act.

The Commissioner recommends that election officers be informed of and receive training regarding their obligation to ensure active offer of service in the language of choice of the public, and that bilingual officers be required to wear a lapel pin identifying them as such. In addition, the Commissioner recommends that these officers be made aware of the insidious and perverse effects of non-verbal language when responding to a request for service in the language of choice of the citizen concerned.

The Commissioner also recommends changes to the Elections Act, designed to: establish criteria for the hiring and selection of election officers, that comply with the requirements of the Official Languages Act; require the political parties to take this Act’s requirements into account in developing their lists of potential election officers; and give the Chief Electoral Officer, where applicable, the discretionary power to choose returning officers outside their usual electoral districts.

Time frame for responding to Commissioner’s recommendations

The Commissioner expects to receive a response to his recommendations within a period of three months following the presentation of the preliminary investigation report.

The recommendations contained in the report of the Official Languages Commissioner are aimed at correcting the deficiencies noted. Many of the changes suggested could be implemented without legislative changes. However, the Commissioner shares the belief of many specialists in the field, who believe that legislative and judicial guarantees contribute to a clearer understanding of the process, thereby facilitating a climate of mutual respect between the two linguistic communities in order to achieve real equality and decreasing social tensions.

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For more information, please contact Ronald LeBreton, Director, Public Affairs and Strategic Planning, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, (506) 444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444.

October 28, 2003

Dialogue NB Launches My Friend, Mon Ami(e) Pen Pal Program

DIEPPE, NB – Dialogue New Brunswick launched its annual My Friend, Mon ami-e Pen Pal program for students in Grades 3 to 9 today at École Anna Malenfant in Dieppe. The program involves the twinning of Anglophone and Francophone students who are at the same grade level but living in different parts of the province. The students exchange letters as well as a video or scrapbook prepared by each class. Dialogue New Brunswick organizes the twinning process and provides all the necessary material for the program, now in its twelfth year.

Students communicate in their first language when they write their letters and are able to practise their second language when they read the correspondence received from their pen pals. More than 55,000 students have taken part in the program since it was established.

"We firmly believe that the My Friend, Mon ami-e program helps foster better understanding and respect between the province's French- and English-speaking communities," explained Carole Fournier, Executive Director of Dialogue New Brunswick.

Michel Carrier, Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, said the program is a resounding success and should be celebrated. "Anglophones and Francophones in our province have a shared history of co-operation and understanding, and the My Friend, Mon ami-e program is helping to ensure that our future together is even brighter."

Ms. Fournier said that 4,063 students in 192 classes are participating in the 2003-2004 edition of the My Friend, Mon ami-e Pen Pal program.

Dialogue New Brunswick is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 that encourages Anglophones and Francophones to get together, talk together and work together.

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For more information, please contact Carole Fournier at (506) 657-2391 or 1-866-224-4040.

A Few Comments about the My Friend, Mon ami-e Pen Pal Program

"What an unforgettable experience for the students in both classes. The students from Bertrand truly realized how important it is to learn English. They said it was hard, but they managed to understand one another."

Huguette Thériault, teacher at École Ola-Léger, Bertrand

"I was surprised to see their expressions and the friendships that sprang up?It was wonderful to see them expressing themselves in their own way and playing together without prejudice."

Denise Landry, parent volunteer, Memramcook

"I think that your Pen Pal program is very educational and fun to do inside of school."

Kyle Scribner, a student at Quispamsis Middle School

"I really liked this project too because I found some new friends."

Katherine Stever, École Place-des-Jeunes, Bathurst

September 19, 2003

Senior Investigator Hired

Michel Carrier, Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, is pleased to announce the selection of Pierre Beaudoin as Senior Investigator with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. Mr. Beaudoin began work at the Office on September 2.

Mr. Beaudoin brings to the Office of the Commissioner a wealth of experience in investigations gained during a 31-year career with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Having spent more than 29 of those years in New Brunswick, Mr. Beaudoin has a knowledge and appreciation of this province and its people. In addition to his experience in law enforcement, Mr. Beaudoin worked in the area of labour relations and was also in charge of administration for the RCMP's "J" Division. Mr. Beaudoin is an experienced mediator and was responsible for the coordination and management of the RCMP's Alternative Dispute Resolution program for Atlantic Canada. Mr. Beaudoin occupied this position until coming to the Office of the Commissioner earlier this month.

Mr. Beaudoin has been an active volunteer in community organizations for more than 25 years. His belief that parental involvement is crucial to the development and enhancement of a quality education system led him to prominent volunteer roles in the school system at the local, district and provincial levels. Mr. Beaudoin has always had an interest in language rights. He is also the recipient of the Queen's Jubilee Medal in recognition of his continued commitment to his community.

As Senior Investigator for the Office of the Commissioner, Mr. Beaudoin will investigate complaints from members of the public pertaining to the Official Languages Act and provide reports of his findings to the Commissioner.

The hiring of Mr. Beaudoin brings to four the number of full-time employees at the Office of Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick.

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For more information, please contact Giselle Goguen, Director of Public Affairs and Research, at 506-444-4229 or giselle.goguen@gnb.ca.

September 3, 2003

Presentation of Framed Official Languages Act Poster

Michel Carrier, Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, presented a framed poster version of the Official Languages Act to Bev Harrison, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. It will be displayed in the Council Chamber or in the rotunda of the Legislative Assembly.

July 3, 2003

Commissioner of Official Languages Launches Investigation into NB’s Electoral Process

Fredericton, NB – Michel Carrier, the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, has launched an investigation into the province's electoral process.

"My office has received a number of complaints from New Brunswickers who were unable to receive service in the language of their choice from election officers during last month's provincial campaign and on election day," said Mr. Carrier.

"Because of the number of complaints we have received, and the letters to the editor and other media reports we have read, we have decided to launch an investigation into whether New Brunswick's electoral process is meeting its language obligations as set out in the Official Languages Act and, if not, what can be done to improve the situation," said the Commissioner, adding that he has received the full cooperation of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer.

The Commissioner has decided to wrap all the elections-related complaints received by his office into one self-initiated investigation examining the entire electoral process for any system-wide problem regarding the delivery of services in both official languages.

The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is an officer of the legislature. He investigates complaints and makes recommendations with respect to compliance with the Official Languages Act. The Commissioner shall communicate the results of the investigation and any recommendations, including any opinion and the reasons for the recommendations, to the Premier, the deputy head or other administrative head of the institution concerned and the complainant. The Commissioner can investigate pursuant to a complaint he receives or on his own initiative.

The Commissioner is mandated to receive and investigate complaints regarding government institutions.

Examples of government institutions:

  • departments of the government of New Brunswick
  • Crown corporations
  • any board, commission or council, or other body or office, established to perform a governmental function or pursuant to an Act of the Legislature or under the authority of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council
  • third parties offering services on behalf of the Province of New Brunswick
  • the province's courts, policing services
  • all cities as well as those municipalities whose official language minority population represents at least 20% of its total population
  • regional health authorities
  • planning commissions and solid waste commissions serving an area with an official language minority population of at least 20% of its total population.

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For more information, please contact Giselle Goguen, Director of Public Affairs and Research, at 506-444-4229.