Archived - New Publication Confirms Essential Role Courts Play in Clarifying and Implementing Language Rights

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Ottawa, August 10, 2012 – Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser today released Language Rights 2009–2011, a one-of-a-kind publication that reviews the major language rights decisions rendered by Canadian courts over the past two years.

“With 2012 marking the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we should reflect on the impact the courts’ decisions have had on the development of language rights and the progression towards the equality of English and French in Canadian society,” said Commissioner Fraser. “The courts have significantly contributed to clarifying the scope of language rights and the duties incumbent upon governments, and have acted as guardians of the fundamental values that underlie language rights.”

The report illustrates the variety and importance of issues the courts dealt with from 2009 to 2011, including the following:

  • Do parties have a constitutional right to use French in proceedings before the Alberta courts? Is Alberta’s Languages Act unconstitutional?
  • Do provincial police in New Brunswick have the obligation to actively offer services in both official languages, pursuant to section 20(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? What kind of remedy is possible when this obligation has not been met?
  • Are paragraphs 2 and 3 of section 73 of the Charter of the French Language, which restrict access to education in English, contrary to section 23(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
  • By changing the way census data is gathered, did the Government of Canada fail to meet its obligations under Part VII of the Official Languages Act?
  • Can superior courts order interim costs when a case involves constitutional issues in the area of language rights?

“Although the courts have an essential role to play in implementing linguistic duality, it is primarily up to our parliamentarians to take action when an ambiguity in legislation leads to inaction by the government,” added the Commissioner. “The Parliament of Canada will have an opportunity to lead the way on this as it considers a government bill to clarify Air Canada’s language obligations as well as a private bill tabled by Senator Maria Chaput to modernize Part IV of the Official Languages Act.”

Language Rights 2009–2011 is available on the website of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

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For more information or to schedule an interview with the Commissioner, please contact:

Nelson Kalil
Strategic Communications and Media Relations

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