NDP calls for Bilingualism of Supreme Court Judges

New Democrat MP François Choquette (Drummond) tables his first bill as Official Languages critic today to make bilingualism an essential condition for the appointment of Supreme Court judges.

“All Canadians must have fair access to justice – especially in the country’s highest court,” said Choquette. “Unilingual judges have to call on third parties to understand oral arguments and written submissions. But simultaneous interpretation and translation have their limits and this negatively impacts the equality of Francophones and Anglophones in their dealings with the justice system.”

This bill would amend the Supreme Court Act to add bilingualism as a new condition for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court. Judges would have to understand both official languages without the help of an interpreter.

A number of stakeholders have already publicly supported the bilingualism of Supreme Court judges, including the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, the Quebec Bar, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes, and several experts on linguistic rights.

This bill has already been tabled three times in the House of Commons by former New Democrat MP for Acadie-Bathurst, Yvon Godin. Each time, the Liberals voted in favour of the measure.

“Respect for official languages and their equality of status within the public service must be a priority,” said Choquette. “As Official Languages critic, I will continue to defend the rights of linguistic minorities throughout the country.”