FREDERICTON (GNB) – Judge Yvette Finn and John McLaughlin have been appointed as commissioners to undertake a review of the Official Languages Act.

“I am very grateful that these two highly respected and accomplished individuals have accepted to step up and accept this mandate. They both have a deep understanding of the fabric of our province,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. “I am confident that the experience, expertise and knowledge of these two individuals in their various fields, including law and education, will be key to the success of this review.”

“Throughout their respective careers they have both demonstrated collaborative leadership and a willingness to listen and connect with others. These are essential assets that will be greatly beneficial in fulfilling their given mandates,” said Higgs. “We have so much as a province, when we band together we are an example to all of Canada and I know this exercise will make us stronger.”

Finn held a professorship at the Université de Moncton in the 1970s before beginning law studies at the Université de Moncton and being called to the New Brunswick Bar in January 1982. She was appointed to the Provincial Court of New Brunswick in 1999 and has been a supernumerary judge since 2017. During her career, she has also served as chair of the Provincial Court Judicial Education Committee and vice-chair of the National Education Committee of the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges. Finn has also initiated a national training program in English and French for provincially appointed judges across Canada. She has been very involved in Acadian associations as president of the Société nationale de l'Acadie, the Société des jeux de l'Acadie and founding president of the Fondation des Jeux de l'Acadie.

McLaughlin is a retired deputy minister for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (Anglophone Sector) and is currently the president and CEO of Atlantic Education International. He is a career educator, with a background in literacy and educational leadership, and has served as a superintendent of schools in Northern New Brunswick. In recent years he has represented Canada, through the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada, on two OECD international education committees: the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, and the Education Policy Committee, on which he served as a vice-chair. As one of the architects of Canada’s K-12 Global Competency Framework, he has represented Canada in high-level discussions about the future of education at the United Nations in New York and at UNESCO in Paris.

The two commissioners have two complementary mandates. The first is 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. The final report will be a public document.

In addition to the formal review of the Official Languages Act the commissioners have been asked to identify ways to improve access to both official languages for all New Brunswickers. Currently less than 50 per cent of students who graduate from the anglophone education system have the ability to speak both English and French. Higgs 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.

In keeping with COVID-19 guidelines, individuals and stakeholders will be able to participate in this process by mail or electronically and through virtual formal presentations.

An online portal will be available in the coming weeks through which New Brunwickers will be able to access more information and submit their suggestions and recommendations.