Holistic access to justice in French
In the section of this report that deals with follow-ups on major issues, the Commissioner rightly congratulates the steering committee responsible for the implementation of the recommendations in the report Access to Justice in French on its energy and its progress. Although the Commissioner recognizes that he and the citizens have to be patient, he does not believe that being patient means being passive.
In February 2014, the Commissioner had a very constructive conversation with the Attorney General of Ontario. At that meeting, the Commissioner stated that the promising measures described by the steering committee would be enhanced if they were combined with a concrete move by the Ministry of the Attorney General, with the aim of giving real impetus to French-language services in the justice sector. The Commissioner noted that the last action of this kind dated back to the late 1970s, just before the Courts of Justice Act was passed in 1984, with its clauses guaranteeing the right to be heard in French in the courts.
The proposed momentum-building exercise would be a pilot project to implement, in one particular region, all the recommendations in the Access to Justice in French report – in other words, the creation of a “laboratory” whose principal experiment would involve developing and testing measures to provide Francophones with holistic access to justice.
It would be up to the Ministry of the Attorney General to determine the region concerned, but to reflect the whole of Ontario as accurately as possible, it should probably include both designated and non-designated areas under the French Language Services Act, as well as large urban centres and more rural areas. Whatever region is selected, it would be imperative to ensure that the project has the necessary leadership, resources and time to guarantee success, so that all of Ontario’s regions can see for themselves what a justice system that is fair to Francophones in a minority setting looks like and, most important, so that they will have a roadmap to help them make it a reality.
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