Front-line gov't workers should be bilingual: N.B. language commissioner
Front-line workers at government buildings in New Brunswick may soon need to be bilingual, if government adopts new recommendations from the language commissioner.
New Brunswick’s Commissioner of Official Languages launched an investigation after personally encountering a commissionaire who could not serve her in French.
The commissioner’s office says it has received 10 complaints over the last 11 years.
“We conducted a systemic investigation into security services in government buildings since 2004. We conducted 10 investigations into complaints into the lack of service in French by security officers, who are the front-line people who greet you when you arrive at a government building,” said Katherine D’Entremont.
The most recent complaint came last year, after D’Entremont went into a government building and spoke French to Wayne Grant, the security guard on duty. He informed her that he didn’t speak French, and offered to find someone who did.
After the incident, Grant was given other duties that didn’t require him to greet the public.
“There is no provision in the contract that government has with the security company that talks about the need to provide services in both official languages,” said D’Entremont. “That was a very stunning discovery, to say the least, that there’s not a word in the contract about the obligation to provide services in both official languages.”
D’Entremont is recommending that all front-line workers be bilingual.
Grant says he’s worried that will create job losses among his colleagues.
“I think it’s going to put a lot of people out of work, especially quite a number of commissionaires,” Grant said.
He worked as a commissionaire for 11-and-a-half years, but since his removal from the front desk he has decided to retire early.
“If I had that same job I would probably stay there for another couple of years, but the way it is now I work every Thursday outdoors, regardless of the weather, and I work every weekend,” he said.
Daniel Bussieres is New Brunswick’s Sergeant-at-Arms. He says bilingual commissionaires work front-line jobs as much as possible.
“Due to the market we’re dealing with, the amount of people that are available in the area of security that are also bilingual, it’s been challenging,” Bussieres said.
D’Entremont says she is encouraging the government to adopt her recommendations. The minister responsible for official languages, Donald Arseneault, says government will review the recommendations and take them into consideration.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ashley Blackford