Statement from the Commissioner regarding the Bill to Establish the Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission

For Immediate Release

News releases | Gatineau, Quebec -

Commissioner of Official Languages Raymond Théberge issued the following statement today in response to parliamentarians’ discussions on the bilingualism requirement for commissioners who would sit on the Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission:

“I am dismayed to learn that the commissioners on the new Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission may not be required to be bilingual.

“Once again, the reason used to justify this decision is the negative impact the bilingualism requirement could have on recruiting qualified candidates. Unfortunately, this argument is repeated all too often. I firmly believe that our country needs a more inclusive and diverse legal system and that our institutions need to reflect the rich diversity of Canadian society. However, this cannot and must not be at the expense of our official languages.

“Since the modernization of the Official Languages Act, much progress has been made regarding the language requirements of the Canadian judiciary. Supreme Court and federal court judges must now be able to hear cases in the preferred official language of those facing justice. To go against these new obligations by not requiring bilingualism of the commissioners who would review miscarriages of justice seems illogical to me. It is a giant step backward in terms of Canadians’ right to equal access to justice in both official languages.

“After all the ground we’ve covered, it’s inconceivable that the bilingualism of government officials should once again be called into question and that French should once again be looked upon as a second-class language.

“I encourage parliamentarians to take another look at this crucial issue and do everything in their power to ensure that members of the public can interact with the Canadian legal system in English or French and to make themselves understood within that system in the official language of their choice.”

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