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For the Chief Justice, “we must always push” for access to justice in French

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Marianne Rivoalen has been the Chief Justice of Manitoba since last year. She replaced Judge Richard Chartier who was also bilingual.

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A few months after being appointed chief judge of the Manitoba Court of Appeal, Marianne Rivoalen explains how she sees the place of French in the provincial judicial system, its challenges and the role it will play in the modernization and the digitalization of the judicial system.

This interview has been synthesized for purposes clarity. All of the topics covered, including the digitalization of the courts, are explored in depth in the interview available in audio version by clicking on the links inserted in the article.

First by ensuring that I have bilingual judges at the Court, of course, to be able to hear cases, appeals in French or in both official languages, and also the personnel necessary to provide the service to litigants.

It is also necessary to ensure that, a bit like all this business of translation, interpretation, the staff is in place to be able to offer services for Manitobans' litigants.

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It’s also about being close to the French-speaking community to understand its needs. As you may know, I am very close to the Association of French-speaking jurists (AJEFM) and I asked the association of jurists and to Infojustice to let me know if there were ever any problems with access to justice in French.

I'm not aware of everything, but if someone comes to tell me, if someone writes to me to say that there are problems, I can try to resolve them as much as possible. To resolve them, I would sometimes have to talk to the executive, to the Minister of Justice, to find solutions to ensure that litigants have access in both languages official.

This is a file that is very close to my heart because it is a bit my own journey, as a young bilingual lawyer who offered services for people in family law who wanted to prepare their files in French. So I've been working in the field of access to justice in French in Manitoba for a long time.

French in the courts has its place 100% with English. We should have access to similar services, it is a constitutional right. I think the place is there, it won't change. We have the right to proceed in both languages, period.

I think there's a revival, let's say. I also think that we are paying more attention to the fact that we have the right to proceed in both languages ​​or in French.

When I went to the AJEFM annual general meeting, I was very impressed. There were still around fifty people there, and some young people! It encourages me a lot to see this.

When I was a young lawyer and doing part of the association of lawyers, there were still key people. Rhéal Teffaine, Jean-Paul Boily, Antoine Fréchette, Michel Monnin, Marc Monnin, Guy Jourdain who is always there.

I think there was a bit of a dip at one point, but now I have the impression that there are more people and that ;they are younger. I think that the fact that Infojustice and the Association of Jurists received federal money to finance certain projects has a huge impact on both organizations and the fact that they are able to offer services in French.

I think this demonstrates that&#x27 There is more interest. There are more people who know that these two institutions exist. To answer the question, I find that yes, there is more interest, probably across Canada too. I feel like it's not fair in Manitoba.

Let them apply for the magistracy. If they are interested in becoming a judge, this is the right time to apply at the federal level because there are vacancies and we need that, particularly at the family division because there is still no bilingual judge since I left.

My intention was to encourage young lawyers who have the criteria, such as 10 years of experience at the bar, to apply.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">That's interesting. I left for five years and when I came back, I was told that there were no longer any translators working for the province. Everything was done freelance. For interpretation, it's the same thing.

Just after the AJEFM annual general meeting, I met Teresa Collins, who is the director of the Francophone Affairs Secretariat in Manitoba. She is responsible for the interpretation and translation file for the province, not just for the Ministry of Justice, but in general.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">We try to find possible solutions to meet the needs, and then I think that there are things that might be able to be done , like collaborating with other western provinces to try to find a pool of, let's say, qualified people who can do legal translation.

Interpretation is a little more difficult because normally, the person must be on site at the Court to do the interpretation. Sometimes, maybe we could do it by videoconference, it's not as good, but in any case, we will try to find possible solutions.

Since I made these remarks, it's interesting because I have heard that even in Ottawa, they have difficulty finding jurilinguists, such as people who are trained in translation and law, and therefore there is still a shortage of people who can offer these services. This is still a problem at the Canadian level, not just in Manitoba.

I had raised the question of translation and interpretation. It was also the first time I met him, so it was more to get a feel for who he was.

My file that concerns me the most is of course the digitization of the files at the Court of Appeal and the transformation of our two courtrooms to accommodate ;#x27;ensure that we can still function adequately with the technology.

I think it's because I'm Franco-Manitoban. I was raised in both languages. When I worked as a lawyer, I ensured that my clients had access to services in French at the Court. It’s a constitutional right, it’s part of our history. You have to be proud of who you are, you must never give up. It's just in my DNA, I think.

You also always have to push, because if I don't push, who would push? At the level that I am now as chief justice of Manitoba, access to justice for the French-speaking minority is an important issue, as important as d' other files at the Court.

The challenge here is finding bilingual staff. Finding a bilingual assistant, finding bilingual clerks… That's the challenge in Manitoba, it's not that we don't have the will or we don't want to to do is find qualified personnel because unfortunately, I have the impression that sometimes you have to look outside of Manitoba to be able to find qualified world who is able to work in French.

And even, I would say, at the government level, this n&amp It's not that they don't want to pay, it's that they can't find anyone to do it. That's the impression, at least, that I have at the moment.

But I still had the chance to work for five years at the Federal Court, it really allowed me to see that justice in both languages ​​can be done at across Canada, but you need to have the resources and personnel to do it.

The priority is to find staff competent in both languages. There are even vacancies for deputy or clerks at the moment.

I know the government has held competitions to find assistants to work with the judges, but the people who were interested were not proficient in French. So that's the big challenge in Western Canada in general, it's finding people who are from Manitoba or who want to come to Manitoba.

For the future, that frankly worries me. On the one hand, it’s good to see all the lawyers, the young bilingual lawyers. That's very comforting, but finding the support staff is a little more difficult, I think.

We should go and recruit in Ontario and then in Quebec, I think. I even suggested to Teresa Collins that we recruit from universities like McGill, which perhaps have jurilinguist or translation programs, and just say that we are here, we exist, to encourage people to come and do an internship.

We're going to work on that. The province's contract is with Thomson Reuters which has a similar contract with the Superior Court in Ontario. They have already, I think, touched a little on the French aspect in Ontario, because they still offer certain services in French.

It is certain that when we are able to file documents electronically, the documents in French will be filed too. I'm very aware that it has to work in both languages.

C& #x27;is sure that there will be very few files in French. But maybe there will be more now that I'm here too, now that there are more young lawyers who want to file their documents in French.

I would say September 2025. It's not just e-filing, it's all Court documents. Everything will be digitized so we're doing it step by step, but that's it in principle.

We're going to be able to operate entirely digitally, with virtual hearings, at the registry, etc.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116