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More work needed to comply with Official Languages Act: N.B. report
Published Tuesday, June 21, 2016 10:32AM ADT Last Updated Tuesday, June 21, 2016 7:17PM ADT
FREDERICTON -- New Brunswick's commissioner of official languages says the provincial government must do a better job of providing front-line services in both English and French.
Katherine d'Entremont released her third annual report on Tuesday, which includes the results of an audit to determine whether government departments and agencies offer and provide services in both official languages.
A total of 1,384 audits were conducted in person, by telephone and by email.
She said the in-person and telephone audits reveal relatively high rates of service delivery in both official languages at the provincial level -- above 80 per cent for service in French and above 90 per cent for service in English.
"There was not a single case of failure to obtain service in English in any of the seven regions of the province. However, in four regions, there were failures in obtaining services in French," d'Entremont said.
"After nearly a half a century of official bilingualism in New Brunswick, one might expect the delivery of bilingual services to be excellent in all respects, throughout the province. Our audit findings reveal this is not the case," she told a committee of the legislature.
Front-line employees are supposed to greet people in both official languages, offering to serve them in the language of their choice.
But d'Entremont said her audit showed a low rate of compliance.
"On average, auditors were greeting in both official languages by employees fewer than one in five times," she said.
D'Entremont said it's important for New Brunswick to set an example with respect to official bilingualism and must rise to the challenge of its status as Canada's only officially bilingual province.
She said the government has not acted on recommendations she has made over the last two years that are necessary to fully comply with the Official Languages Act.
D'Entremont said if that continues, citizens may have to apply to the courts to have their language rights respected, which would be very costly to the province.