A group of lawyers challenging Quebec’s new language law marked their first legal victory against the legislation, as a judge temporarily suspended a provision requiring English court documents to be translated into French. The lawyers challenging the sections of the law argued that the translation requirement violates sections of the 1867 Constitution Act that guarantee access to the courts in both official languages.
Adopted in May of this year, Bill 96 seeks to protect the French language in Quebec by increasing its use in shops, workplaces, schools, and the legal system.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Chantal Corriveau ruled that the sections of Bill 96 that require corporations to pay a certified translator to produce French versions of legal documents could prevent some English-speaking organizations from accessing justice through the courts. In a written judgment, Corriveau said the rule could cause delays and result in expenses that could hurt small and medium-sized businesses.
“The evidence demonstrates a serious risk that, in these cases, certain legal persons will not be able to assert their rights before the courts in a timely manner, or will be forced to do so in a language other than the official language which they and their lawyers master the best and which they identify as their own,” Corriveau wrote.
A spokesperson for Quebec’s Minister of the French Language Simon Jolin-Barrette said in a statement that his office was analyzing the ruling.
“Let us not forget that the provisions in this case are intended to promote better access to justice in the official and common language, French,” the statement read. “The government is firmly committed to defending this fundamental right.”
Corriveau agreed that the lawyers raised valid questions about barriers to justice, especially in urgent cases that “may require rapid intervention before the courts to avoid irreparable harm.”
Félix-Antoine Doyon, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said his clients believe in the need to protect the French language, but feel the government went “very far” with certain provisions of Bill 96. “We need to protect French, but we also need to protect access to justice, and we must remember that in a civilized society the system of justice is there for the people, and for legal persons as well.”
Read Full Article from CBC (08/12/22)
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