Official languages project stalls review, expert warns

A constitutional law expert said he worries a recently announced project will delay the mandatory review of the Official Languages Act.

The New Brunswick government is using a two-year process to review the types of services being provided under the Official Languages Act to stall its obligation to review the language law, according to a constitutional expert.

Premier David Alward announced the two-year official languages project last week that he said is intended to help inform the upcoming review of the Official Languages Act.

When the language law was updated in 2002, it included a mandatory provision to review the law in 10 years.

Michel Doucet, a law professor at the University of Moncton, said he believes the two-year project announced by the provincial government is, in fact, a postponement of that mandatory review.

"There was an undertaking by the government that this process would be done by 2012. And if we look at the plan itself we will see that the revision of the Official Languages Act has been postponed until 2013," he said.

The provincial government wants the time to study how to offer better bilingual services and how to allow civil servants to work in either French or English.

The law professor said he wonders why the provincial government needs another two-year study.

"I was amazed to see that after 40 years of bilingualism in New Brunswick, official bilingualism there are still departments in the provincial government that do not understand what their obligations are," he said.

Both the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals say they support the new two-year plan.