FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government will create a Secretariat of Official Languages to promote and strengthen services for both linguistic communities in response to the 2021 review of the Official Languages Act.

The secretariat will begin official operations in April 2023 within the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs.

“I am proud to announce the creation of this secretariat to promote the positive aspects of being Canada’s only officially bilingual province and to strengthen our ability to provide high-quality services in both English and French,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. “In order to build on that – and to be the best we can be – we must find innovative and creative solutions to help meet the needs and address the challenges of both linguistic communities. We strongly believe that by putting these responsibilities within the Secretariat of Official Languages, our province can continue to fully play its role as a leader.”

The secretariat will co-ordinate, support and promote the Official Languages Act by being responsible to:

·         develop, review, monitor and evaluate the implementation plan required by the act;

·         regularly review the act and regulations and make recommendations for amendments if required;

·         provide advice to the government on official languages topics;

·         take a solution-based and innovative approach in meeting the needs of the two linguistic communities;

·         ensure high-quality services are delivered in both official languages within government departments, agencies, the health-care sector and Crown corporations, by helping develop and maintain linguistic profiles and an efficient approach to language evaluations;

·         work with the Department of Environment and Local Government to assess the impact of local government reform on the act and regulations;

·         administer and update the Language of Service Policy and Guidelines and the Language of Work Policy and Guidelines as needed;

·         undertake public outreach campaigns to promote respect, knowledge and communication between the two linguistic communities and the economic benefits of bilingualism in the province; and

·         ensure regular consultation with various stakeholders from both linguistic communities.

The government will bring forward legislation in the spring to:

·         create the secretariat and define its mandate;

·         provide a mechanism for the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages to delegate an investigation when a complaint brings a real or perceived conflict of interest; and

·         direct the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages to provide quarterly reports with information on the nature, origin and types of complaints received.

“These proposed changes and the decision to create a secretariat are based on continuity, planning, long-term sustainability and thoughtful decision-making in the interest of all New Brunswickers,” said Higgs. “I would like to thank the commissioners Judge Yvette Finn and John McLaughlin, for the quality of work they have demonstrated throughout their review. They have allowed us to reflect on the actions we can take to improve the rights of both linguistic communities, while promoting the learning of a second official language for all New Brunswickers throughout their lives.”