First anglophone to be named languages commissioner hopes her example will inspire

First anglophone to be named languages commissioner hopes her example will inspire

Shirley MacLean has something to prove. 

On Friday, she was named the province's commissioner of official languages and will be the first anglophone to hold the position since it was created in 2003. 

"I'm very much hoping that my positive experience in learning a second language, certainly as an adult as well, will serve to promote the advancement of both official languages in New Brunswick," MacLean said Monday.

She said she knows the French language and has a good understanding of French culture, but she also knows she has to win the hearts of francophones. 

"There's always work to be done."

Bringing 2 languages together

MacLean, who called herself a proponent of education about other cultures, said she hopes to give New Brunswickers a greater desire to learn the value of both official languages. 

"I'm actually pretty proud to have been chosen," she told Information Morning Fredericton.

MacLean will come to the commissioner's job from the New Brunswick Law Society, where she has been deputy executive director. She will replace the acting languages commissioner, Michel Carrier.

She is originally from Baddeck, N.S., but has lived in New Brunswick for more than 30 years.

In her 20s, MacLean took immersion in Quebec where she became bilingual. Then she applied to law school at the University of New Brunswick. After getting her law degree, she decided to stay on and work in the province.

"New Brunswick was a bilingual province and the only way I was going to keep my second language, was if I stayed here and worked and lived and breathed both official languages."

What's the job?

The official languages commissioner is mandated to investigate complaints under the Official Languages Act, to report on and make recommendations on compliance with the act, and to promote the advancement of both official languages in the province.

The commissioner reports to the legislature and makes an annual report.

In 2016, almost 34 per cent of New Brunswickers were bilingual, according to Statistics Canada.

More than 72 per cent of New Brunswickers whose mother tongue is French are bilingual, compared with 15.4 per cent of New Brunswickers whose first language is English.

The former permanent commissioner, Katherine d'Entremont, retired in July 2018 after five years in the position.

MacLean will start the new job in January.