Archive for November, 2015

Supreme Court too provincial

November 23, 2015

by Jack Locke*

The Supreme Court of Canada has done the citizens of Canada a royal disservice.

In the recent case of Caron versus Alberta, a majority of the court said on November 20, 2015, that Alberta did not have to make its laws in French and English. I repeat not.

Pierre Boutet and Gilles Caron had been charged with traffic offences in Alberta. They admitted breaking the law, but contested the legitimacy of the laws as being unconstitutional for failing to be available in Canada’s two official languages, English and French.

In their 6-3 decision(can be read HERE), the court ruled it’s okay to deny the two complainants the right to have laws printed and published in French.

What makes the case truly repugnant to Quebec citizens, or should, is the fact that the Government of Quebec did NOT intervene at the Supreme Court to assert the linguistic rights of French speakers in Alberta.

This is the dirty political game that Quebec governments continue to play.

By not standing up for the rights of French-speaking persons throughout Canada, the Government of Quebec simultaneously maintains its consistent discriminatory stance against English-speaking persons within Quebec.

This is an undignified position and one contrary to the wishes of numerous Quebecois and Quebecers, to be sure.

It is equally undignified that the Government of Alberta did not stand up for all Canadians equally, nor for a great number of French-speaking Albertans.

As a result, the culture provincial governments are fostering—one of linguistic greed—is at the expense of national unity. In addition, it fosters animosity amongst the two linguistic groups, which Alberta and Quebec currently do not seem to mind, apparently.

This is not my Canada. Let’s set aside for the moment the need to recognize indigenous languages as official—as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission— but not for too long. The refusal by provinces to seek harmony throughout the land, by recognizing the multi-lingual nature of our country, is something to which we ought take umbrage.

Supreme Court justices Abella, Wagner, and Côté, who formed the minority in this case looked at the issue from primarily an historic viewpoint. They concluded that the decision of the late Judge Leo Wenden in the provincial court of Alberta, which took 89 days at trial, was correct. Namely, that Alberta’s Languages Act, and Traffic Safety Act, are unconstitutional.

However, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and justices Rothstein, Cromwell, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, and Gascon ruled in favour of Alberta, and contrary to the position of Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser as stated in a press release.

“Today’s judgment is not the one I had hoped for. It is the end of a legal saga that gave Canadians an opportunity to know how deep French roots are in Western Canada,” said Commissioner Fraser. “However, provincial governments could make their own decisions to move toward equality for the two language groups.”

However, the Supreme Court did not look at the issue of equality for the two language groups. It was not mentioned in their judgment. Sadly, they avoided that issue altogether.

Under present law, Quebec and Manitoba must print and publish all laws in both English and French. Yet, the Supreme Court ruled that Alberta does not need to do so.

What kind of equality is that?

It’s the kind of equality that makes lawyers rich.

And it is the kind of equality that keeps the Supreme Court of Canada busy. By not dealing with the obvious legal question, it will have to be fought once again by a large team of lawyers, no doubt.

At the end of the Caron case, the Supreme Court made an unusual costs decision. They awarded the losers certain costs for the huge 12-year legal odyssey. The trial transcript alone required 9,000 pages. That’s one heck of a lot of legal work, only to prove that the Supreme Court has done a major disservice to the people of Canada. My Alberta friends will thus have to bear the costs of this litigious misadventure.

But it is of little consolation for the litigants, who will have to pay their traffic tickets.


* The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies, opinions, or beliefs of Journalists for Human Rights(JHR).


Daylight Savings

November 1, 2015

With every day, week, month, I regret /

Time passes like a Lac Megantic train /

Tomorrow is horror I hope to forget. /

From birth I leap from mother’s loving net

Upon my future Grandpa inflicts pain

With every day, week, month, I regret.

Teachers turn my senses into a cassette

Onto a track designed to mould my brain

Tomorrow is horror I hope to forget.

As I age I gambol, gamble and bet

Loss is the lesson I brutally gain

With every day, week, month, I regret.

As I dress for work I address my debt

My commitment to progress ferments like grain

Tomorrow is horror I hope to forget.

I’d like to retire but cannot yet

At least impoverishment I attain

With every day, week, month, I regret

Tomorrow is horror I hope to forget.