Several federal deputies arrived in Quebec on Sunday to defend the rights to Anglophones.
Posted at 5:00 p.m.
But where are these members concerned about language rights when their government appoints the Governor-General to speak French? Or the lieutenant-governor of the monolingual Anglophone in New Brunswick, the official bilingual province?
They are absent subscribers, because outside of Quebec French is considered an official, yet unofficial language.
Latest example: The federal government announced on Tuesday that it would appeal a ruling declaring the appointment of a new Brunswick lieutenant-governor unconstitutional due to unilateralism.
Brenda Murphy, a woman with an outstanding record in advocating for the rights of women and sexual minorities, was appointed Lieutenant Governor in 2019 by Justin Trudeau.
The Society de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick motion was filed to cancel this appointment.
To everyone’s surprise, the Court of Queens Bench in New Brunswick (equivalent to the Superior Court in Quebec) agreed with the Tracy Diver Accordion.
The judge said in summary that if the constitution makes sense, the post of lieutenant-governor requires bilingualism. Politically, performance is only marginal. But legally, it is a constitutional requirement, especially when the law comes into force by affixing its seal.
However, the Charter of Rights states that “French and English are the official languages of New Brunswick; Legislature and New Brunswick government agencies have equal status and rights and powers in their use.
In principle, bilingual communities “have equal status and equal rights and powers”.
The lieutenant governor is a man, but she is also an institution.
“It is difficult to understand how one can determine that the appointment of a monolingual lieutenant-governor is consistent with the objective pursued by the Charter,” the Chief Justice wrote.
“Unlike the elected members of the government and the opposition, there is only one lieutenant-governor, and he is the only head of state.
The federal government argues that language responsibility does not apply to the individual, and that his argument would be the same if the lieutenant-governor were a French-speaking person. The judge did not swallow this figurative snake: the monolingual francophone lieutenant-governor never and never will.
“It would be difficult for the lieutenant governor to accept that the Anglophone New Brunswickers’ speech from the throne is in French or in English with only a limited number of parts,” wrote Justice Diver, himself a bilingual Anglophone. It would probably be disappointing if a monolingual French-speaking lieutenant-governor had trouble speaking to English-speaking citizens at community events or at awards ceremonies such as the Order of New Brunswick. Yet similar facts were imposed on the French-speaking New Brunswickers. ⁇
Judge Diver therefore held that the Trudeau government had violated its constitutional obligations. But considering the separation of powers, it does not cancel the appointment. She leaves the responsibility of deciding the appropriate remedy to the executive, the way it says: This is the last time you do.
The ruling raises a number of legal and political questions విమర్శలు and criticisms everywhere outside of Acadia.
Note that federal agencies have constitutional equality of languages. Following Judge Dever’s logic, Mary Simon’s appointment last year was unconstitutional because she did not speak French – or spoke very little.
Let us put the argument further. What about the New Brunswick premiere? Blaine Higgs monolingual anglophone. He was “not appointed”, he was elected deputy. But the constitutional spirit imposes more and more on him to be a bilingual person who communicates with the people on a daily basis. Can you imagine a monolingual Francophone prime minister in Fredericton or Ottawa? Certainly not. But is it a political or constitutional obligation?
This judgment, which appears to be purely regional, opens the door to all kinds of legal action.
Three Federal Liberal MPs, including Acadians Serge Carmire and Rene Arsenal, have condemned the government’s decision to appeal the ruling.
Official Languages Minister Ginet Petitpass-Taylor said it was only to test the “technical” points of the constitutional interpretation. She says the Trudeau government “fully agrees” with the principle of appointing a bilingual person in the future.
But this “full agreement” was obtained after a fierce struggle.
Because it is one of the laws of political gravity in Canada. It is always easy to mobilize politicians against the excessive actions of the Quebec government to protect the French. And it is very difficult to mobilize outside the communities concerned against the long-term, institutional neglect of the rights of francophones in Canada.