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:
Director of Public Affairs and Research
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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.
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.”