Joint news release of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick – Access to justice in both official languages: The commissioners urge the federal Minister of Justice to take action
August 16, 2013 — 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 François 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.
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For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:
At the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada: Nelson KALIL
Manager, Strategic Communications and Media Relations
At the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario: Simon CÔTÉ
Public Relations and Communications Officer
At the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick: Hugues BEAULIEU
Director of Public Affairs and Research