OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 08/16/13 -- The Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada and his counterparts from Ontario and New Brunswick are recommending that the federal Minister of Justice take 10 measures to ensure Canadians have access to justice in both official languages. These recommendations are the result of a joint study on the bilingual capacity of Canada's superior courts, which was released today by the three commissioners.
"In a country that proudly claims linguistic duality is a fundamental value and an essential part of its identity, no one should have to deal with delays and additional costs because they chose to be heard in English or French," said Graham Fraser.
The three commissioners reviewed the judicial appointment process for superior courts as well as the language training available to judges. The study found that the appointment process does not allow for a sufficient number of judges with the language skills needed to hear citizens in the minority official language.
"Currently, there is no coordinated action from the federal Minister of Justice, his provincial and territorial counterparts and the chief justices to ensure adequate bilingual capacity at all times in superior courts. A collaborative approach is at the heart of the proposed recommendations," said Francois Boileau, French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario.
The study also noted that, for some judges, maintaining their language skills is a challenge. Although the language training program currently offered by the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs is appreciated by superior court judges, the commissioners recommend that the program be improved.
"Specifically, the applied training workshops that are currently offered in New Brunswick to provincial court judges could be interesting models to explore for superior court judges," suggested Katherine d'Entremont, Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick.
The study recommends 10 concrete and pragmatic courses of action that will improve the bilingual capacity of the judiciary of superior courts. The commissioners are urging the federal Minister of Justice to ensure a quick and collaborative implementation of these recommendations.
"The consequences of inaction are real for the citizens who must contend with the judicial system and who are not guaranteed to be heard in their official language of choice. If the federal Minister of Justice does nothing, then it's the status quo. And the status quo is unacceptable," concluded Graham Fraser.
The study Access to Justice in Both Official Languages: Improving the Bilingual Capacity of the Superior Court Judiciary is available at www.officiallanguages.gc.ca.
Access to Justice in Both Official Languages: Improving the Bilingual Capacity of the Superior Court Judiciary
-- The matter of access to justice in the superior courts requires action by both the federal government and the provincial governments, the latter being responsible for operating these courts and the former for appointing the judges.-- For the two million Canadians who are members of Anglophone or Francophone minority communities to have access-at all times and without additional cost-to judges with the language skills necessary to hear cases in the minority language, the federal Minister of Justice must appoint an appropriate number of bilingual judges.-- In a criminal case, Canadians are entitled to a preliminary hearing and a trial in the official language of their choice, regardless of where in the country the case will be heard.-- In the superior courts, approximately 2/3 of the judges (648 out of a total of 1,017) hear cases in provinces and territories that require them to respect the language rights of citizens in non-criminal cases, including in the areas of family law, wills and estates law, contract and commercial law, and bankruptcy law.