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Statement by Roger Melanson on the Official Languages Act Review

January 15, 2021News

“The Premier does not understand the Official Languages Act. His recent statements in the House and in the media have demonstrated this. He has just proved it once again, this time by displaying an absolutely disconcerting lack of organization and transparency.


The Liberal Party had proposed the creation of a Standing Committee on Official Languages in the Legislative Assembly to review the Act in an impartial and transparent manner.  Not only did the Premier reject this proposal, he decided on the format of the review in secret, without consulting either the Official Opposition or the Commissioner of Official Languages.


After months of waiting, we now learn that a commission will be established.  However, the Premier is unable to say more. Is this an avoidance strategy or last-minute improvisation?


The Premier will have to quickly answer several questions about this commission: How were the commissioners chosen? What is the precise mandate and who developed it? Are the commissioners completely free to conduct the work as they see fit or are they under the authority of the Premier? What are the powers of this commission? What is the proposed timetable? Will the submissions and interventions presented to the commission be made public? Will the report be submitted to the Legislative Assembly?


It is important to remember that, according to the Constitution, a review of the Official Languages Act cannot result in the status quo or a weakening of the equality of the two languages and the two official linguistic communities.  In this regard, the Official Opposition believes that the mandate of the commissioners should fall within the framework of the constitutional obligations relating to the Official Languages Act.


Furthermore, we find it worrisome that the Premier makes no mention of the participation of parliamentarians. It would not be acceptable for MLAs to be excluded from the review process or for the commission to take the place of democratically elected representatives.


The Official Languages Act is clear: “the review shall be completed no later than December 31, 2021”. The Premier has just stated, in a press conference, that he expects to receive the commission’s recommendations by the end of the year.  Obviously, he has never read the legislation for which he is directly responsible.  He lacks leadership and is totally disorganized. This is appalling and very disturbing.”


Roger Melanson

Interim Leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party