Category: Official Languages

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Approaching Minority Language Educational Rights Differently: Association des parents de l’école Rose-des-vents v British Columbia (Education)

The case Association des parents de l’école Rose-des-vents v British Columbia (Education), 2015 SCC 21 [Rose-des-Vents] represents an interesting example of a new generation of issues related to minority language educational rights that Canadian courts are brought to resolve on the basis of s.23 of the Charter. This provision is “designed to correct and prevent the erosion of official language minority groups so as to give effect to the equal partnership of Canada’s two official language groups in the context of education” (Rose-des-Vents, para 27). The petition judge’s approach regarding the course of the proceeding and the legal issues –...

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Minority Language Education Entitlements & The Meaning of Substantive Equality under Section 23 of the Charter

Ass’n des parents de l’école Rose-des-vents v. British Columbia, 2015 SCC 21 [Rose-des vents] opens up a new series of questions surrounding minority language education rights guaranteed under Section 23 of the Charter. Section 23 guarantees minority language rights holders the right to have their children receive primary and secondary school instruction in English or French, giving effect to the equal partnership of Canada’s two official language groups in the context of education. It was designed to correct the erosion of official language minority groups and to counteract assimilation, which may occur when the children of rights holders attend majority language schools. This case is...

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7UP for Your Rights: Thibodeau v Air Canada

In what has been dubbed “the 7UP case,” a majority of the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) has ruled in Thibodeau v Air Canada, 2014 SCC 67, that Michel and Lynda Thibodeau are not entitled to a damage award that would have required Air Canada to take steps to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act, RSC 1985, c 31 (4th Supp). (NB: Although I admit the name of the case did influence my decision to write on it, I have no known relation to these Thibodeaus; the name “Thibodeau” is as common as “Smith” in some places.)

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Alberta Has No Constitutional Obligation to Publish Its Legislation in French: R v Caron

In 2003, Mr. Caron was issued a traffic ticket for making an illegal left hand turn. Rather than simply paying the fine, Mr. Caron sought to challenge the ticket on the ground that the ticket was issued in English only, and thus violated the province of Alberta’s constitutional obligation to publish its legislation in both English and French. He also argued that the Languages Act, RSA 2000, which allows Alberta to legislate in English only, was ultra vires. Mr. Caron was unsuccessful and the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the province of Alberta has no obligation to print its...

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Nguyen v. Quebec and Suspended Declarations of Constitutional Invalidity

Based on the outcry from all sides of the political spectrum, it is no wonder that the Supreme Court of Canada took a middle-of-the-road approach in its decision in Nguyen v. Quebec (Education, Recreation and Sports), 2009 SCC 47. (A comprehensive factual background of the case was provided on TheCourt.ca in May 2008 by representatives of the Quebec Association of Independent Schools when the case first appeared on the Supreme Court docket.) Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice LeBel held paragraphs 2 and 3 of section 73 of the Quebec Charter of the French Language (provisions dealing with minority language...

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Bill C-232: Should Bilingualism be Required at the SCC?

On Monday, March 23rd, the House of Commons debated Bill C-232, an NDP impetus to require that Supreme Court justices have knowledge of English and French. The bill, tabled by New Democrat Official Languages Critic Yvon Godin, proposes that section 5 of the Supreme Court Act ( R.S., 1985, c. S-26 ) be amended to add that “any person referred to in subsection (1) may be appointed a judge who understands French and English without the assistance of an interpreter.” In an emailed press release sent to TheCourt.ca, Mr. Godin is quoted as predicting that the bill will be passed....

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SCC Provides Guidance on Language Equality: DesRochers v Canada

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) released their decision in DesRochers v Canada (Industry), 2009 SCC 8 [DesRochers]. In it, the top court opines on the nature and scope of the obligations placed on federal government institutions by the Official Languages Act, RSC 1985, c 31 (4th Supp) [OLA]. Facts Industry Canada has economic development plans for Ontario’s rural areas which are implemented by community future development corporations (“CFDCs”). The North Simcoe CFDC facilitates economic development by providing various services, including the provision of capital, advice, and strategic plans for the community. Raymond DesRochers was the Executive Director of Corporation...

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Should Supreme Court judges be required to be bilingual?

What is justice if you cannot make yourself heard properly? What is justice when an ill-informed person determines your fate? We can all attest to it: even people who share a language occasionally have difficulty understanding each other. Languages are alive. They are characterized by nuances and subtleties which vary, namely, according to cultural references and speakers’ intentions. However, while we cannot aspire to fully understanding others, why not strive to do so, to reduce the gap separating people by using language, to improve understanding, to succeed in formulating informed opinions as much as possible? Before a person is appointed...

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Judicial Bilingualism Is Good, But It’s Not Everything

MP Dennis Coderre’s recent bill tabled in the House of Commons, Bill C-548, “An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (understanding the official languages – judges of the Supreme Court of Canada),” proposes to amend s.16 of the Act so that Supreme Court justices are required to be bilingual (similar to the requirement for federal court judges). TheCourt.ca contributor Matthew Shogilev has already discussed the pros of such an amendment; I will discuss the cons.

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Should Supreme Court Justices Have to be Bilingual?

In a bilingual country such as Canada, effective statutory interpretation demands a command of both official languages. Indeed, it is commonplace for judges and lawyers alike to either substantiate or problematize a particular line of statutory interpretation in one official language by looking to the text of the statute in the other. The prevalence of this mode of legal argument is made plain by looking at the two most recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions, Montréal (City) v Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse), [2008] 2 SCR 698 [Montréal] and R v SAC, [2008] 2 SCR 675 [SAC].