POLITICS

Report recommends changes to New Brunswick Official Languages Act

04/25/2013 03:35 EDT | Updated 06/25/2013 05:12 EDT
FREDERICTON - A New Brunswick legislature committee is recommending the province amend the Official Languages Act to provide some yardsticks to monitor the progress of bilingualism.

The 50-page report released Thursday says unlike the federal Official Languages Act, New Brunswick's act does not provide for measures to meet the linguistic obligations of government departments and institutions.

"The committee believes that it is important to confirm in the Act the government's obligation to provide itself with a comprehensive plan for ensuring compliance with the Official Languages Act," says the report, which contains about 40 recommendations.

Attorney General Marie-Claude Blais, who is also chairwoman of the committee, says it's important that New Brunswickers are aware of how bilingualism is progressing in the province.

"The Official Languages Act is the most important social contract which New Brunswickers have provided themselves," she said.

The recommendations also seek to clarify the period of time police forces have to provide services in both English and French.

The legislation currently says "within a reasonable time," but Blais said that needs to be clarified further.

Hedard Albert, a Liberal member of the committee, said that's particularly important when it comes to the RCMP.

"They signed a contract with New Brunswick and they have to follow the rules in New Brunswick," he said.

Among the remaining recommendations, the report says municipalities should have the sole power to make sign bylaws within their jurisdictions.

New Brunswick is Canada's only officially bilingual province.

The public has until May 17 to respond to the report.

The Official Languages Act was passed in 1969 and must be reviewed every 10 years.