Fredericton, June 18, 2015 – Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Katherine d’Entremont, is recommending that starting in 2020, bilingualism be a requirement for appointment to a senior public servant position in New Brunswick. In the meantime, the Commissioner recommends that a unilingual person appointed to a senior public servant position be required to attain an advanced level of proficiency in the other official language.
These recommendations are from a study on bilingualism in New Brunswick’s senior public service, presented in the Office of the Commissioner’s 2014-2015 annual report.
“There are several reasons why senior public servants need to be able to speak both official languages,” the Commissioner explained. “Apart from their obligation to communicate with the two linguistic communities and to supervise Anglophone and Francophone employees, senior public servants are also primarily responsible for applying the Official Languages Act. For all of these reasons, bilingualism is an essential competency.”
Senior public servants, i.e. deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers, and executive directors, account for roughly 3% of all government employees in departments and agencies (Part 1). The study by the Office of the Commissioner showed that approximately 50% of New Brunswick’s senior government officials can carry out their duties in both official languages.
“The Official Languages Act now requires the government to improve the bilingual capacity of its senior management. Our recommendations should guide the government towards attaining that objective,” d'Entremont added.
The Commissioner is also recommending that a provincial act be adopted so that in the future, bilingualism be a requirement for the appointment of officers of the Legislative Assembly. The Province has eight officers, including the Ombudsman and the Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner.
“The time has come for New Brunswick to live up to its status as the only officially bilingual province in Canada and take decisive action to ensure that all senior public servants in the province speak both English and French,” said d’Entremont.
The Commissioner also presents recommendations to ensure the success of the next Implementation Plan of the Official Languages Act.
“An evaluation of the last plan revealed that very few concrete measures have been implemented. That is very disappointing, as the plan was intended to give new impetus to official bilingualism,” said d’Entremont. “Since December 2013, the provincial government has had a legal obligation to adopt a new plan which it has not done yet. I expect this plan will be announced soon, and more importantly, that it will be truly implemented.”
With respect to investigations, the Commissioner highlights the City of Miramichi’s non-compliance with its language obligations.
“Widespread violations of the Official Languages Act have been persisting for several years in Miramichi. This situation is unacceptable, and government officials must ensure that the city complies with the Act.”
The Office of the Commissioner’s 2014-2015 annual report also includes the results of a major study on the evolution of bilingualism in New Brunswick. It shows that the number of bilingual people in the province more than doubled between 1951 and 2001, settling at slightly more than one-third (34.2%) of the population. However, since the early 2000s, the number of bilingual people in New Brunswick has been stagnating.
The Commissioner also addresses the new language obligations of professional associations and is pleased the provincial government accepted her recommendation to extend the associations’ language obligations to the general public. “The primary role of a professional association is to protect the public by regulating the practice of a profession. Consequently, it was not acceptable that their language obligations be limited to their members. I applaud the Legislative Assembly’s recent actions in amending the Official Languages Act so that, beginning in 2016, professional associations will be required to offer their services to the public in both official languages.”
Again this year, the Commissioner highlights best practices in the delivery of bilingual services to the public and the use of both official languages within government departments and agencies. The efforts of the following employees are recognized:
Language of Service
(Health Workforce Planning Branch – Department of Health)
Language of Service
(Service New Brunswick)
Language of Work
(Service New Brunswick)
For more information:
Director of Public Affairs and Research
506-444-4229 or 1-888-651-6444
About the Commissioner of Official Languages
The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick is an independent officer of the Legislature. Her role is to protect the language rights of the members of the Anglophone and Francophone communities and to promote the advancement of both official languages.
COMMISSIONER’S RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING THE BILINGUAL CAPACITY OF THE SENIOR PUBLIC SERVICE IN NEW BRUNSWICK
• That the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick enact legislation establishing that the ability to speak and understand both official languages (level 3, oral, in the second language) be a requirement for the appointment of all new officers of the Legislative Assembly.
Deputy Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers and other Senior Public Servants*
• That, over the next four years, all competitions for and staffing of deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and other executive positions (Pay Bands 8 to 12) include
o a requirement to speak and understand both official languages (level 3, oral, in the second language)
o a requirement to attain a level 3, oral, in the second language, within three years from the date of appointment.
• That, beginning in 2020, the ability to speak and understand both official languages (level 3, oral, in the second language) be a requirement for the appointment of all deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and other executive positions (Pay Bands 8 to 12).
*Excluding positions within the English and French sections of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
• That the government establish an intensive second-language training program tailored to the needs of senior public servants.