Review of the Official Languages Act15 January 2021
FREDERICTON – Premier Blaine Higgs will appoint two commissioners in the coming weeks to undertake a review of the Official Languages Act.
“The adoption of the Official Languages Act 50 years ago ensured the equality of both of New Brunswick’s official languages and in turn the equality of the two linguistic communities,” said Higgs. “Official bilingualism has always been a rich part of our culture and history as a province, and it will continue to be so going forward.”
The commissioners will be named at a later date. Their mandate will be to oversee the review process, to consult with the public and key stakeholders, to review suggestions and recommendations submitted during the process and to present a final report with recommendations to the government. As is required by provisions under the Official Languages Act, the review must be complete by Dec. 31, 2021.
In keeping with COVID-19 guidelines, formal presentations will be made virtually. Individuals and stakeholders can also participate in this process by mail or electronically. The final report will be a public document. Details of the process will be finalized after the commissioners are appointed and announced.
In addition to the formal review of the Official Languages Act the commissioners will be asked to identify ways to improve access to both official languages for all New Brunswickers. Higgs noted that currently less than 50 per cent of students who graduate from the anglophone education system have the ability to speak both English and French. He said new technology and growing workforce challenges caused by outmigration have placed pressure on the province’s ability to maintain the delivery of high-quality services in both official languages. The commissioners will address these concerns, as well as other language issues.
“New Brunswick is unique, and as the only bilingual province in Canada, we have so much to be proud of,” said Higgs. “I invite all New Brunswickers to engage and to be part of this important process, not just to review a law but to be part of a provincial conversation on making bilingualism work. Together we will face our challenges head on to build a brighter future for all.”
An online portal will also be launched in the coming weeks where New Brunswickers will be able to find more information and submit their suggestions and recommendations.