Fredericton (May 1, 2024) – The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is releasing two investigation reports on complaints alleging deficiencies in the provision of French-language services on the eVisitNB platform. Between October 29, 2022, and February 5, 2023, seven complaints about eVisitNB Inc. were filed with the Office of the Commissioner. A few months after the investigation into these complaints was concluded, another similar complaint was filed with the Office of the Commissioner and was the subject of an investigation.

“In the seven complaints investigated, none of the complainants were able to receive the services they requested in the official language of their choice, French. Indeed, they did not receive any service,” wrote the Commissioner of Official Languages, Shirley MacLean, in the first investigation report, signed on March 20, 2024. “There have been serious breaches of the Official Languages Act.”

In most cases, the complainants submitted their requests in French and, after waiting a certain amount of time, each received the following message in English only, “Unfortunately, I am not able to understand your request well enough to provide treatment.” Other issues identified in the complaints include the quality of the French on the eVisitNB website as well as an automated message that appears when users select their language of choice, stating that “deselecting English may increase the waiting time” and asking them if they are sure before continuing.

“We are increasingly reliant on technology as part of our daily lives, and it is essential that the language rights of all New Brunswickers be given first consideration when new systems are implemented,” said Commissioner MacLean. “The inability to access adequate healthcare services in the official language of choice is more than a simple denial of legislated rights. It may lead to misunderstandings on the part of either patient or provider that may in turn lead to dire or dangerous consequences.”

In her investigation reports, the Commissioner makes numerous recommendations to the Department of Health to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act (OLA). Although the complaints specifically target the eVisitNB platform, it is a private company that provides services on behalf of the Department of Health and therefore acts as a third party under section 30 of the OLA. The Department of Health is therefore responsible for ensuring that its third party meet its linguistic obligations.

“Among the recommendations, I asked for a progress report on their implementation,” said Commissioner MacLean. “Many New Brunswickers use this system to access primary healthcare and my office continues to receive complaints about eVisitNB to this day. It is crucial that the Department resolve these issues to ensure that no member of the public is at a disadvantage because of their official language of choice.”


Investigation Reports

Department of Health (1) – March 2024

Department of Health (2) – March 2024