Government of New Brunswick

Canada’s two official languages, English and French, are a fundamental characteristic of Canadian identity. Recognition for the equal status of English and French in Canada dates back to Confederation when the Constitution Act of 1867 recognized the use of both languages in Parliament and in federal courts.

Status for the two languages was reinforced by the first Official Languages Act of 1969 and the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter), which declared English and French as Canada’s official languages and provided for their equality of status in Parliament and in the Government of Canada. The Act was revised in 1988. 

European explorers began to visit New Brunswick in the early 1600s making English and French part of New Brunswick`s culture and history. New Brunswick adopted the Official Languages of New Brunswick Act (OLNBA) in 1969, a few months before the federal government enacted its own Official Languages Act.


The Official Languages Act is a law enacted by the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick which makes New Brunswick the only officially bilingual province of Canada. This law prescribes that English and French are the two official languages of New Brunswick and have equal status in all provincial government institutions.

A key principle of the Act is that New Brunswickers have the right to communicate with and receive services from provincial offices/departments in either French or English. 

The Acadians in northern New Brunswick had long been geographically and linguistically isolated from the more numerous English speakers, who lived in the south of the province. Government services were often not available in French, and the infrastructure in predominantly Francophone areas was noticeably less developed than in the rest of the province; this changed with the election of Premier Louis Robichaud in 1960. He embarked on the ambitious Equal Opportunity Plan, in which education, rural road maintenance, and health care fell under the sole jurisdiction of a provincial government that insisted on equal coverage throughout the province.

The 1969 Official Languages Act made French an official language. Proclaimed three months before the adoption of the federal Official Languages Act, the enactment of the Official Languages of New Brunswick Act (OLNBA) made New Brunswick the first officially bilingual province in Canada.  

Under the Act, the Government of New Brunswick is committed to enhance the vitality of the official-language minority communities in the province and to support their development, as well as to foster the full recognition and use of both English and French in New Brunswick society. 

The Act requires all provincial government offices, departments, Crown corporations, hospitals, to serve members of the public in the official language of their choice.

Each person in New Brunswick can choose the language of communication of their choice. The OLA only applies to government offices and services.

Not-for-profit organizations and New Brunswick businesses are not subject to the Official Languages Act and are therefore not required to meet the language obligations under the Act unless they are providing services on behalf of the Government of New Brunswick.

However, numerous analysis and studies show that bilingualism is an important social and economic advantage.

Each person in New Brunswick can choose the language of communication of their choice. However, learning a second language can provide several benefits such as:

  • Being bilingual exposes an individual to diverse customs, ideas, and perspectives;
  • Makes travel easier and more enjoyable;
  • Speaking a second language can provide more job opportunities;
  • You can support your kids in their second language learning;
  • Speaking a second language opens up a whole new range of social opportunities; 
  • Being bilingual can boost your confidence.

Unilingual New Brunswickers are welcomed into the public service. Language training is available after appointment and as part of employees’ career plans.  The Official Languages Act of New Brunswick puts the onus of providing services in both official languages on the provincial government so that individuals do not have to be bilingual.

To provide the general public with services in English and French, provincial government departments must have a certain number of bilingual and unilingual employees. According to the Government of New Brunswick’s figures

  • 53% of employees must be able to speak English;
  • 2% must be able to speak either English or French;
  • 41% must be able to speak both official languages; and
  • 4% must be able to speak French.

Unilingual English speakers therefore have access to 55% of government jobs (53% + 2%).

Also, 29% of bilingual New Brunswickers have English as their mother tongue. Therefore, these Anglophones can access bilingual positions.

Not-for-profit organizations and New Brunswick businesses are not subject to the Official Languages Act and are therefore not required to meet the language obligations under the Act unless they are providing services on behalf of the Government of Canada.

This position was created by the Official Languages Act in 2002. The Commissioner has two main responsibilities. Firstly, to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act. This is done through receiving complaints from the public, conducting investigations, and making recommendations. Secondly, the Commissioner is responsible for promoting the advancement of both official languages in New Brunswick. 

Official bilingualism is not about money, it is about culture, identity, equality, and respect for the linguistic communities.  Furthermore, The Two languages: It’s good for business study (Pierre-Marcel Desjardins and David Campbell, 2019) clearly demonstrates the many economic advantages of bilingualism. For example, because of its two official languages, New Brunswick has a customer contact centre and back office industry generating $1.4 billion worth of interprovincial and international export revenue annually for the province. The province also has the highest proportion of people employed in this industry compared to all other provinces. In fact, companies that came to the province for its bilingual workforce have created two unilingual English jobs for each bilingual position.

UNB and Université de Moncton both offer second-language training programs. 

The major goal of French Immersion is to provide the opportunity for non-francophone students to become bilingual in English and French. 

You will find more information at this address: French Second Language Education (

A provincial survey in New Brunswick done by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages: LANGUAGE-AND-SOCIETY-APRIL-2022. revealed that 60% of New Brunswickers felt that the relationship between Anglophones and Francophones in New Brunswick is more positive today than 10 years ago.

More statistics to consider from this report:

  • 81% of respondents support the Official Languages Act;
  • 89% of respondents are confident that they can receive government services in the official language of their choice;
  • 92% of respondents felt it was important that instruction in the other official language be available in New Brunswick schools;
  • 91% of respondents felt that second language training for adults should be available free of charge in the province.

No. School districts, public schools, community centres, community colleges, and universities do not have to offer services in both official languages.

**Sources: Government of New Brunswick, Government of Canada, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada; the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick;