On November 2, the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick released a press release calling for the Higgs government to begin their review of the Official Languages Act, with no response.
The Official Languages Act of New Brunswick recognizes and regulates the two linguistic communities in the province and must be reviewed every ten years, with the deadline for the next review set for December 2021.
The last review took place behind closed doors and Benoît Bourque, Official Opposition critic for La Francophonie, is calling for a more transparent process this time around.
David Coon, Green Party Leader in New Brunswick and Fredericton South MLA, agrees with Bourque, and has proposed the creation of a permanent committee in the legislation for official languages that would coordinate the hearings for the review.
The review must be completed by December 2021 to ensure that New Brunswick does not violate its own statute. While Bourque raised concern about the timeliness of the review, as the last review took approximately two years, Coon ensured that the review can be completed in time.
“[This act is] essential to fairness and justice in this province, in terms of people being served by their government and its institutions in the official language of their choice,” Coon said, explaining that it was “completely outrageous that the hearings were held behind closed doors.”
Coon explained the importance of this act for maintaining the integrity of the province of New Brunswick, in terms of the way that it operates.
“It’s one of the fundamental pillars that equity is built on in New Brunswick among our two potential linguistic communities,” explained Coon.
He still questions the motivations of the leaders of the last review, in hopes that the Higgs administration would make the decision to publicise the next one.
“They were so fearful of political backlash that they imagined might happen as a result of one presentation or another,” Coon said. “Surely governments need to have more courage than that.”