ARCHIVED - Ottawa, February 5, 2009

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Official language communities can expect better services following the Supreme Court ruling in Caldech, says Graham Fraser

Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages, says that he is very pleased with today’s Supreme Court ruling in the Caldech case in Ontario. “The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed a number of key principles with regard to language rights," Fraser said.

"The ruling reminded the federal government of its constitutional duty to provide the public with services of equal quality in both official languages. This ruling establishes that a broad view must be adopted when looking at equality, and that the government must consider the nature and purpose of the service in question when defining its linguistic obligations. This is an important principle that clarifies the scope of the Official Languages Act,” stated the Commissioner today.

Practically speaking, the Supreme Court has confirmed that, to achieve linguistic equality, the government may have to offer services with distinct content. The nature of the service in question must be considered in order to determine what is necessary for each official language community. The content of the principle of linguistic equality in government services is not necessarily uniform, but it must be defined in light of the nature and purpose of the service in question. “In this case, we are looking at a community economic development program, and the participation of official language communities is necessary for both the development and the implementation of programs,” stressed Mr. Fraser. “The institution must consider the specific reality of the official language community if its needs differ from those of the majority.”

In the case at hand, where the Commissioner of Official Languages acted as co-appellant alongside Caldech and Mr. Desrochers, the Supreme Court recognizes that the government must take the necessary steps to ensure that Anglophones and Francophones equally contribute to the definition and delivery of services.

By awarding Caldech and Mr. Desrochers their costs, the Supreme Court has confirmed that the application has raised an important new principle in relation to the Official Languages Act.

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