FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government today introduced a bill to amend the Official Languages Act, following recommendations from a select committee of the legislative assembly on the revision of the act.

"I thank the select committee on the revision of the Official Languages Act for its excellent work and professionalism in dealing with this important issue," said Premier David Alward. "These amendments to the Official Languages Act provide us with a continuous progression of the linguistic rights in New Brunswick and will provide our two linguistic communities with an opportunity to better understand and recognize the benefits and opportunities of official bilingualism. These changes will also strengthen one of the most important features of New Brunswick – being the only officially bilingual province in Canada."

Amendments include:

●    The Commissioner of Official Languages is given new responsibilities to carry out his or her mandate.
●    A purpose clause is added to improve the definition of the principles and objectives of the act as well as to clarify the intentions of legislators, thus making the act easier to interpret.
●    Following a two-year transition period and a consultation process, associations established by acts of the legislative assembly to regulate professions will become subject to the Official Languages Act.
●    The provincial government is required to develop and apply a comprehensive plan for implementing its official languages obligations.
●    Courts will have to consider the efforts made by police officers when fulfilling their linguistic obligations to determine "reasonable time."
●    The amendments clarify the provincial government's official languages obligations when relying on subcontracting to provide services.
●    Under the Municipalities Act, municipalities are given clear authority to make signage bylaws within their boundaries.
●    The amendments confirm the practice of co-drafting provincial laws and regulations in English and French under the terms of the act.
●    The next review of the act is required to be completed in eight years.

"The official Opposition was pleased to participate in this important process for the revision of the Official Languages Act, and we thank all individuals, groups and organizations who have sent their comments and suggestions," said Brian Gallant, leader of the official Opposition. "Since the 1960s, each one of our provincial governments has contributed to the evolution and fostering of the two official languages in New Brunswick, starting, of course, with Louis J. Robichaud and Richard Hatfield. We are pleased to see that this tradition continues."

Adopted in 2002, the Official Languages Act stipulates that the provincial government had an obligation to initiate a review of the act in 2012. The select committee was created as a result. It consisted of MLAs from the government and the official Opposition. Following two consultation processes, it submitted its final report to the legislative assembly, making 42 recommendations pertaining to the Official Languages Act and other issues.