Commissioner of Official Languages Advocates More Generous Vision of Official Languages

Fredericton, October 6, 2009 – In the view of Michel Carrier, the Commissioner of Official Languages, real equality between New Brunswick’s two linguistic communities is contingent upon a more generous vision of official languages. His remarks were made on the occasion of the submission of his 6th Annual Report.

“Too often, the Official Languages Act is seen as a necessary evil rather than a symbol of respect and equality,” said Carrier. “Too often, the spirit of the Act is neglected in favour of a very specific, limited interpretation. Forty years after the adoption of the first Act, the time has come for a much more generous vision of official languages.”

In his annual report, Commissioner Carrier indicates that his office received 148 complaints between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009. Of that number, 62 were admissible, with 52 based on lack of service in French and 10 on lack of service in English. In addition, the Office handled 65 requests for information concerning the Official Languages Act (OLA).

“This sixth report paints the picture of a very special year for official languages,” noted Carrier. “The past year was one of progress owing to the new language of work policy and the setting up of a committee tasked with ensuring enhanced implementation of the Act. It was also a year marked by government reforms in health and education that generated a great many questions and concerns about what had been achieved in the area of language rights. And it was a year of reflection because of the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the first Official Languages Act.”

Language of work within the civil service

In his report, Commissioner Carrier recommends that the government take three steps in order to ensure the success of the new language of work policy within the civil service. “Deputy Ministers and managers must provide strong, ongoing leadership so that employees take advantage of this policy,” said Carrier. “It is also necessary to implement a strategy for promoting official languages in the workplace and to ensure better access to language training.” Further, Michel Carrier recommends that the key elements of this new policy be added to the Official Languages Act at the time of its review, which must take place by December 31, 2012. “I believe the right to work in one’s own language is fundamental given the status of equality of New Brunswick’s two linguistic communities,” he indicated.

Implementation of the Official Languages Act

The Commissioner also noted that he is very anxious to see the government’s strategy for ensuring the enhanced implementation of the Official Languages Act. Over the past few years, Carrier recommended several times that the institutions subject to the OLA adopt a master plan in order to ensure better application of the Act. “Such a strategy, if it were well designed and applied uniformly, could lead to major progress in the provision of quality bilingual services,” said the Commissioner. “To help mark the Act’s 40th anniversary, I believe we can give ourselves a gift that reflects a more generous vision of official languages.”

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To view the 2008-2009 Annual Report.

For more information, please contact:

Hugues Beaulieu
Director of public affairs and research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444