Francophone jurists want to regulate the bilingualism of superior court judges
< p class="styled__StyledLegend-sc-v64krj-0 cfqhYM">AJEFM is asking Justice Minister David Lametti to appoint two bilingual judges to the Court of Appeal and two bilingual judges to the Court of Bench of King of Manitoba.
The Association des juristes d'expression française du Manitoba (AJEFM) calls on the federal government to create a systematic framework to ensure the appointment of bilingual judges to the superior courts of the provinces and territories.
The AJEFM requests that this measure be incorporated into the bill currently under study on the modernization of the Official Languages Act.
The organization's brief was submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages and the organization's vice-president, Karine Pelletier, was scheduled to speak to the committee on Thursday. However, the session was canceled during the morning.
The federal government appoints the judges of the superior courts of the provinces and territories, such as the Court of King's Bench in Manitoba. The federal government must act proactively to ensure the presence of a core or a critical mass of bilingual judges within the courts in question, argues the AJEFM in its brief.
However, the current system of judicial appointments grants a wide discretionary power to the Minister of Justice of Canada. Over the years, this system has generally not responded well to the interests and needs of minority Francophone communities, the document continues.
The AJEFM emphasizes the importance of integrating this responsibility of the government into the Act, rather than enshrining it in a regulation. This proposal echoes the words of the Federation of Associations of French-Speaking Common Law Jurists (FAJEF).
The AJEFM's proposal is all the more topical in Manitoba that the province has just lost its bilingual Chief Justice, Richard Chartier. He retired on October 30. Until recently, the Court of Appeal was able to create a panel of three bilingual judges to hear appeals in French, notes the association.
Now, the other two bilingual judges are supernumerary and could stop sitting at any time, adds the AJEFM.
Other judges of the Manitoba Court of Appeal will likely take their retire this year. It is likely that at least some of the judges who will be appointed to this court will come from the Court of King's Bench of Manitoba, which would result in vacancies for judges in the Court of King's Bench.
This superior court has two divisions: the General Division and the Family Division. Two judges from the General Division handle the majority of bilingual or French cases.
These are also the two judges who handle French-language cases from the Family Division, since no judge in this division knows enough French. However, it is precisely in family law that the AJEFM has identified a growing need for services in French.
In this situation, French-speaking litigants are, in our view, treated inequitably, since their family law cases are heard by judges who are not specialized in this field, whereas Anglophone litigants have access in most cases to this nature to judges specializing in family law, notes the brief.
None of the master counselors in the province have sufficient knowledge of French to take cases in that language. Once again, it is the bilingual judges of the family division who must therefore take charge of these cases.
The AJEFM then asked the Minister of Justice, David Lametti, to appointment of two bilingual judges to the Court of Appeal and two bilingual judges to the Court of King's Bench. Since 2015, the federal government has appointed only one person considered bilingual to the superior courts of Manitoba, notes the brief.
There are currently no vacancies in the Court of Bench of King, and Minister Lametti will appoint highly qualified jurists to the Court of Appeal in due course said in an email Chantalle Aubertin, the press attaché to the Minister of Justice.
Our government is proud of the rigorous, transparent and accountable process for appointing judges that we have put in place to identify exceptional candidates who reflect the diversity of Canada, she notes, pointing out that the Trudeau government has appointed more than 575 judges.