The Importance of Access to Justice in French

Rapport sur l'accès à la justice en français

As I explain in my 2011-2012 Annual Report, since having taken the position in 2007, I have demonstrated a keen interest regarding the access to justice in French, given that it is a fundamental right for Francophones who are parties to a judicial proceeding in Ontario to assert their rights in the official language of their choice.

For Francophone citizens, dealing with the public or parapublic sector is often a very different experience than it is for their Anglophone neighbours: their initial contact with a public servant is seldom in their own language; if they feel up to asking for service in French, they constantly have to anticipate the possible scenarios (at best, a sympathetic response; at worst, a humiliating rejection), not to mention the repercussions for themselves and their families. They also have to be prepared for the news that the service they want is unavailable in French or that they will have to wait or go to more trouble, when they know for a fact that the same service is easily accessible to Anglophone citizens.

In my 2008-2009 Annual Report, I had recommended the formation of a committee of legal experts to increase the knowledge of members of the judiciary with respect to language rights and to propose courses of action leading to the appointment of bilingual judges.

Since then, the Ministry of the Attorney General has established a French Language Services Bench and Bar Advisory Committee that is working hard on the issue. As I was mentioning in the blogs I released on August 2 and August 3, 2012, this Committee has released an excellent report on Access to justice in French. This report precisely describes the steps necessary to ensure that French speakers have meaningful and effective access to justice in French in Ontario while making the most efficient use of existing resources. We will go over the content of this report more thoroughly for you in the following weeks.

I rely upon the leadership of the Ministry of the Attorney General for the implementation of this action plan and I am fully committed to closely monitor this important process. However, while awaiting concrete results, tomorrow, I will draw your attention to some worrisome complaints that reflect how important it is for Ontario Francophones to have access to justice in French. These examples are explained in more detail in my 2011-2012 Annual Report.

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