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Politics

Provincial government orders Ambulance NB to scrap bilingual hiring condition

WATCH: The province promising life over language --- ordering Ambulance NB to ditch the requirement for bilingual paramedics. Megan Yamoah reports.

The provincial government has told Ambulance New Brunswick to eliminate bilingual hiring requirements in some mainly unilingual regions of the province.

The province says “the lack of qualified bilingual applicants” means Ambulance NB will have to review the level of demand for each official language for the paramedic positions that are subject to reposting.

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The province is also implementing a freeze on reposting bilingual positions pending the review of the level of demand for each official language, as well as ensuring the selection of a candidate is made based upon seniority when “reposting non-relevant bilingual positions.”

The province’s Health Minister Hugh Flemming says Ambulance NB will have to implement the directives immediately.

“I consider today’s actions to be in the best interest of New Brunswickers because I am putting their lives and their safety first,” said Flemming.

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“There is a gap in the providing of services healthcare services, important services to the people of New Brunswick.”

READ MORE: Ambulance New Brunswick is the most secretive provincial government agency in Canada: report

The topic was a central issue during the recent election campaign. People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin supported the government’s directive, calling it a public safety issue.

“When you look at where the paramedic shortages are happening it’s in Francophone areas, so this will alleviate that,” Austin said. “This will make sure more paramedics are available and ambulances are available in Francophone areas as well as Anglophone areas, small towns, rural communities.”

The change is being made despite a judicial review of language requirements for ambulances, slated to begin next month.

“The Department of Health does not object to the government proceeding with the judicial review of the adjudicator’s decision for the purposes of legal clarity,” said Flemming.

A court ruling last year said bilingual paramedic services must be provided, but a labour adjudicator said there may be ways to lessen the language requirements.

— With files from The Canadian Press