Access to Justice in French in Ontario: A New Advisory Committee Chaired by Justice Paul Rouleau
TORONTO, February 7, 2018 – Today, the Attorney General, Mr. Yasir Naqvi, announced the establishment of the Attorney General’s Access to Justice in French Advisory Committee, which will be chaired by Mr. Justice Paul S. Rouleau, of the Court of Appeal for Ontario.
“I would like to acknowledge the leadership of the Attorney General in this matter and I hope that the Committee will have enough independence, resources, and flexibility to fulfill its mandate. The Committee’s work will undoubtedly have a positive impact on providing French language services and access to justice in French in general”, states Mr. François Boileau, French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario.
This Committee, composed of experts from the government, the judiciary and the community, is of capital importance because its mandate will be to assess the current issues connected with access to justice in French and then to submit practical recommendations and solutions to the Attorney General.
“I am confident that we will soon see the day where Francophone litigants will not have to wait longer and spend more money to assert their language rights in the courts of this province. We are already seeing the positive impact of the Seamless Access to Justice in French Pilot Project, which became a permanent project last fall”, says the Commissioner.
- In its 2008-2009 Annual Report, the French Language Services Commissioner addressed the challenges related to access to justice in French and recommended that the Attorney General set up a committee composed of members of the judiciary, of the Bar and of practitioners working for the Francophone community. Its mandate would be to find ways to improve judges’ knowledge in language rights matters and to address the lack of bilingual judges in Ontario.
- In response to the Commissioner’s recommendations, the Attorney General established, in 2010, a French Language Services Bench and Bar Advisory Committee. This Committee made two findings in particular in its report entitled Access to Justice in French: first, it is possible that certain members of the judiciary are not sufficiently informed on Francophone language rights and, second, it could be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to bring proceedings in French before the courts of the province.
- In 2015, the French Language Services Bench and Bar Response Steering Committee, co-chaired by Justice Julie Thorburn and by Ms. Elizabeth Bucci, published a report that reviewed the practical solutions implemented after the Rouleau-LeVay Report was published. The Committee recommended the establishment of a long-term mechanism, such as a French language services oversight committee, to assess ongoing progress, as well as new measures to improve access to language rights for Francophones in the province.
- In its 2016-2017 Annual Report, the Commissioner reiterated the importance of such a committee under the Attorney General.
- The development and implementation of measures to improve access to justice in French require the involvement of many players, including the Ministry of the Attorney General, the judiciary, the Law Society of Ontario, the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario (AJEFO), and the federal government. All of these parties are closely connected when it comes to dealing with the challenges posed by access to justice in French. The new permanent committee will certainly create opportunities for discussion and sharing on all fronts, which will lead to concrete, structured recommendations that will bring about future change.
The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner reports directly to Legislative Assembly of Ontario and its mandate is to ensure that the delivery of government services complies with the French Language Services Act.