May 28th, 2024

New Brunswick virtual health-care service violating Official Languages Act: report

By The Canadian Press on May 3, 2024.

New Brunswick's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa on June 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s official languages commissioner says the province’s online health-care service is violating provincial law by failing to consistently provide services in French.

Shirley MacLean has issued two investigation reports based on complaints received about the eVisitNB platform, saying the lack of service could have “dangerous consequences” for those being denied medical and mental-health consultations in the language of their choice.

MacLean says she filed a report after receiving seven complaints about deficiencies in French-language services between October 2022 and February 2023, and a subsequent complaint led to another report.

Among the seven people who filed the initial complaints under the province’s Official Languages Act, none was able to access the services requested.

MacLean’s report also cites complaints from French-speaking clients who noted that when French services were available, the quality was often poor.

As well, an automated message warns users that selecting a language other than English “may increase the waiting time.”

MacLean’s report says that in most cases, the complainants submitted requests in French and, after waiting a certain amount of time, each received the following message in English: “Unfortunately, I am not able to understand your request well enough to provide treatment.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

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