New Brunswick Tribune

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A dedicated department is needed to review the NB Official Languages Act

Key takeaways:

  • On Wednesday, New Brunswick, Canada’s only officially bilingual province, released a report on the Official Languages Act review.
  • The report also recommended that a standing committee be established in the Legislative Assembly, something Premier Higgs has previously opposed.

On Wednesday, New Brunswick, Canada’s only officially bilingual province, released a report on the review of the Official Languages Act.

The Official Languages Act is reviewed every ten years to improve the province’s language laws’ understanding and implementation and better understand the often divisive language laws.

Judge Yvette Finn and retired deputy minister of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, John McLaughlin, led the commission that produced the report.

It made a digit of recommendations to help the province better meet its constitutional obligations in bilingualism.

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The creation of a Department of Official Languages, which would serve as a central resource for all things related to the Official Languages Act, was the most important.

Finn believes that the lack of such a department “is stalling the progress that we can make as a bilingual province” and that it should be established as soon as possible.

The report also recommended that a standing committee be established in the Legislative Assembly, something Premier Higgs has previously opposed.

“We just think it would be a great effort if our elected officials came together to talk about official languages and bilingualism […] in a constructive way,” McLaughlin said, urging linguistic communities to communicate more effectively.

The Acadian Society of New Brunswick well received the report. “We welcome the work of the two commissioners,” said President Alexandre Cédric Doucet, “and we will work with the government to ensure the adoption of a bill for a revised Official Languages Act of New Brunswick as soon as possible.”

Other suggestions included reviewing the Official Languages Act every five years rather than every ten and having nursing homes in the Act to ensure that patients receive care in their native tongue.

A constitutional lawyer responds to the situation.

Michel Doucet, a constitutional lawyer and expert on language law, isn’t convinced that establishing a Department of Official Languages is the best solution, fearing that it would leave other departments with no responsibility for official bilingualism.

There is no deadline for the provincial government to respond, and they are under no obligation to follow any of the report’s recommendations.

“When, if ever, will a new modification of the Official Languages Act be submitted?” Doucet wonders.

Source: Global News

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