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New Brunswick languages commissioner applauds new bilingual ambulance policy

WATCH: New Brunswick's commissioner of official languages is welcoming a new policy from the New Brunswick government that will require every ambulance in the province to be capable of providing service in both English and French. Morganne Campbell has more.

New Brunswick’s commissioner of official languages is welcoming a new policy from the provincial government that will require every ambulance to be capable of providing service in both English and French.

“It just proves that common sense also includes respecting linguistic rights. You don’t have to have one or the other,” said Michel Carrier in an interview on Tuesday.

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Health Minister Ted Flemming introduced the policy in a letter dated Jan. 18 and addressed to the CEO and chair of Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB).

READ MORE: N.B. health minister retracts regional hiring policy, says every ambulance must provide bilingual service

Flemming wrote that the new plan will allow ANB to continue hiring paramedics with the goal of “having all bilingual-designated positions filled with bilingual paramedics.”

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It was a reversal of the position brought forward by the provincial government in December, when officials said New Brunswick would eliminate bilingual hiring requirements in some primarily unilingual regions of the province.

When Flemming announced that plan on Dec. 18, he attempted to brush off questions about whether the policy would violate the government’s obligations under the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick.

“I’m more interested in filling [employee vacancies] than I am in having some academic discussion of the legal nuances,” he said in December.

The province’s commissioner of official languages took exception to the decision, saying it wasn’t compatible with the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick.

But the new policy seems to have satisfied Carrier’s protests.

WATCH: Global News coverage of Ambulance New Brunswick language changes

The government wasn’t commenting on what prompted the policy change on Tuesday, but opposition parties weren’t shy about offering their views.

“Good to see that a sober second thought has won the day, and that’s the way it should be,” explained Green Party Leader David Coon.

Liberal MLA Jean-Claude D’Amours, also the party’s health critic, said the government had “flip-flopped” in language issues around ANB.

“They now need to understand that they have to put more seriousness in the work that they are doing in that particular area,” he said.

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