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Results: 1 - 6 of 6
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
It is a pleasure to have you here.
Your first profession was law. Afterwards, you aspired to become a justice of the Supreme Court, and you succeeded in that. Now, you are back as a lawyer. And so you have an overarching perspective, which is very interesting. Your testimony is extremely important to us as we consider the modernization of the Official Languages Act.
I will try to ask some questions quickly, because time is flying by.
You have always been in favour of having bilingual Supreme Court justices, and I imagine that that is still the case.
View François Choquette Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thank all three of you for being here today to help with our study.
I will read an excerpt from a letter we received:
The Liberals' rejection of the private member's bill on the bilingualism of Supreme Court justices was all the more surprising and disappointing in light of the fact that during the last election campaign, the Prime Minister presented the Liberal Party of Canada as the party of bilingualism, and also given that in the past, the party had supported a similar bill.
And I should in fact add that this happened on three occasions.
This letter was signed by nine very well known academic authors who are among the most eminent specialists on the matter.
My question follows up on this shocking quote. What constitutional specialists or experts told you that a constitutional amendment would be necessary for my bill to be implemented? Could you send their observations and recommendations to the committee?
View François Choquette Profile
NDP (QC)
According to the nice letter from Mr. Samson, your department is working on a solution, on preparing a bill to solve the problem.
I will quote Subsection 16(1) of the Official Languages Act.
16(1) Every federal court, other than the Supreme Court of Canada, has the duty to ensure that:(a) [...] every judge or other officer [...] is able to understand English [...](b) [...] is able to understand French [...](c) [...] is able to understand both languages without the assistance of an interpreter.
So Section 16 states that all judges must understand French and English, with the exception of Supreme Court justices. What do you think of that?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Mendicino, thank you for being here this afternoon.
I merely have a comment, but rest assured, it isn't partisan. I'm not quite sure where to begin, but here I go.
I wanted to repeat my NDP colleague's call for the names of any constitutional experts who advised your government in relation to its stance on Bill C-203.
I'd also like to point out that many political scientists and sociologists alike have studied this issue. It's a serious problem that has plagued Canada since 1982. Distinguished Université de Moncton Professor Donald Savoie demonstrated it quite clearly in his book Governing from the Centre. Working as an intern at the Prime Minister's Office, I saw the process in action—a process that puts Canada's democracy in great jeopardy. I am talking about the current concentration of power in Canada in the Prime Minister's Office and the Department of Justice. Together, the two entities assess every piece of proposed legislation to determine whether any part thereof could be challenged before the Supreme Court and deemed unconstitutional.
Although the practice is beneficial and legitimate, the problem is that it results in distorted public policy. The government should not rely on the interpretation of Department of Justice lawyers and constitutional experts that a piece of legislation could be deemed unconstitutional by a judge in the future. As lawmakers, we have the right to assert that a piece of legislation is sound and should move forward, despite what the constitutional experts might think.
If your government is really so concerned about constitutionality, why would you not submit a reference question to the Supreme Court on the bilingual capacity of judges? That would be the least you could do to ensure fewer distortions in our public policy and legislative authority.
As I see it, you should be taking the opposite approach, doing as you did when you were in the opposition. In other words, you should vote in favour of the bill and let Canadians decide whether there is any cause for a Supreme Court challenge, and let the judges, themselves, explore the matter in their expert writings.
Why, then, would you not refer the question to the Supreme Court in order to ascertain the opinion of the actual judges, beyond the government-paid experts at the Department of Justice?
View François Choquette Profile
NDP (QC)
I have three questions and two and a half minutes.
In 10 seconds or less, I'd like you to tell me whether you are going to refer the question of the bilingual capacity of judges to the Supreme Court in 2018. Yes or no?
View François Choquette Profile
NDP (QC)
I'm almost out of time.
First, I would have liked you to say yes. I hope you're going to tell the Minister that she needs to do so. You're already lagging behind. I have been calling for this for two years now. This is nothing new. It didn't come out of the blue.
Second, as Mr. Samson stated in his letter, you are currently working on a bill to fix the problem around the bilingual capacity of Supreme Court judges. Does it involve the Official Languages Act, and, if so, which sections? Since I don't have enough time to hear your response, would you kindly send the information to the committee?
Lastly, “implementing a process to systematically, independently and objectively evaluate the language skills” was one of the recommendations of the former official languages commissioner, Graham Fraser. You went from one question to four, but it is still a self-evaluation. Is that in line with a systematic, independent, and objective evaluation of language skills? Yes or no?
Results: 1 - 6 of 6

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