New Brunswick’s commissioner of official languages is calling on the provincial government to do a better job of defining and monitoring bilingual positions inside the civil service.
Katherine d’Entremont issued her first report, since being named commissioner in June 2013, on Tuesday.
The report specifically looked at how the provincial government recruits and manages its staff so it can deliver bilingual services to the public.
"Our study points to serious deficiencies with respect to the identification of bilingual staffing needs, required levels of second-language proficiency and the effectiveness of language training for civil servants," d’Entremont said.
"These deficiencies are often the cause of the complaints we receive and must be addressed."
Bilingualism inside the civil service has been an ongoing issue with the independent office.
In 2012, Michel Carrier, the former official languages commissioner, said civil servants should have the right to work in the language of their choice. Carrier described language of work within the provincial public service as a "weak link."
In New Brunswick, departments form teams comprised of unilingual and bilingual staff. The commissioner said in her annual report that a study found the levels of second-language proficiency of bilingual employees are not clearly defined or monitored.
“This situation compromises service quality," she said.
"The government must show more rigour."
Further, d’Entremont’s study said the required level of second-language proficiency for a bilingual position is not indicated in the advertisement when the job becomes available. The report said that is an important element so potential applicants are aware of the position’s language demands.
The report made five specific recommendations around bilingual staffing and second-language training inside the public service.
The commissioner included recommendations that would make bilingual requirements properly advertised on jobs, better monitoring its bilingual workforce
According to the commissioner’s report, the provincial government has a policy that says 39 per cent of employees must be able to speak both official languages, 51 per cent must be able to speak English, five per cent must be able to speak French and five per cent must be able to speak either English or French.
According to the report, the provincial government’s requirements were met at a rate of 92.3 per cent.
The independent office received 155 complaints from April 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014. The office said 59 of those complaints were deemed admissible with 43 based on a lack of service in French and 16 based on a lack of service in English.
Of the 59 complaints, 17 were about language of service from a person and 14 were about the language of government documents. The categories of signage, telephone communications, website and “other” each received seven complaints.
There were five complaints against the Department of Social Development and three complaints against Ambulance New Brunswick, Service New Brunswick and the Vitalité Health Network.