Fredericton, October 5, 2010 – The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Michel A. Carrier, today presented his seventh annual report. Entitled Building the Future with Two Languages, the document contains numerous recommendations, particularly with regard to the Official Languages Act implementation strategy, revision of the Act, and government signage.
“I am pleased that the provincial government adopted an implementation strategy for the Act,” said the Commissioner. “We had been recommending the adoption of such a tool for several years in order to ensure full implementation of the Act. We reviewed the strategy and made a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring that it achieves its objectives. I very much hope that the new government will maintain and improve that strategy.”
As for the revision of the Act, which must take place by 2012, the Commissioner is already proposing three changes: incorporate the right for provincial civil servants to work in the official language of their choice, ensure better protection of language rights in the case of public-private partnerships, and require that organizations covered by the Act develop a plan for implementing their linguistic obligations.
The signage issue is also addressed in the annual report. In that regard, Michel A. Carrier recommends that the government adopt a balanced policy on government signage. While ensuring equal treatment for the two official languages, such a policy would make it possible, through the positioning of the words (right, left), to reflect the linguistic reality of the province’s various regions.
In terms of complaints, the Office of the Commissioner received 162 during 2009-2010, most having to do with lack of governmental services in French. A selection of founded complaints is presented in the annual report.
The Commissioner believes that one of the keys to making progress in official languages in New Brunswick is greater dialogue between the two linguistic groups. “The conference that we organized last November showed that our two linguistic communities need to talk to each other more.” The Commissioner pointed to the results of a survey conducted by Continuum Research.
“Fifty-five percent of Francophones feel that the future of the French language is threatened, while only 22% of Anglophones share that opinion. Those differences are important and reveal the need for greater dialogue between the two communities,” Carrier said.
The 2009-2010 annual report details activities held in connection with the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the first Official Languages Act. “That anniversary afforded us an opportunity to take stock of the status of bilingualism in the province,” said the Commissioner. “We have made remarkable progress. The results of the survey conducted by Continuum Research clearly demonstrate that official bilingualism enjoyed considerable support by both linguistic communities. Although challenges remain, I am convinced that we can go much further because people recognize the unique value of building the future with two languages.”
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