Ottawa Move Could Ensure Few Supreme Court Judges from West

Richard Cleroux is a first class writer observer of the happenings in Ottawa. And although I spotted his latest column in an Ontario newspaper, it should set off alarm bells in Western Canada.

Writing in the July 3 Cornwall Seaway News, Cleroux’s article Language Issue Heats Up zeroes in on the pre-election debate now taking place in Montreal, specifically whether the city’s mayor should have to be bilingual (the current mayor is, his chief rival is not). And Cleroux  points to similar debates taking place over bilingualism in several other Canadian  communities.

But Cleroux also points to one attempt to extend bilingualism as an OBLIGATORY REQUIREMENT on the NATIONAL SCENE  …  in an area that first made my blood run cold … and then start to boil.

Apparently NDP MP Yvon Godin, from New Brunswick, has introduced a Private Member’s Bill that would require SUPREME COURT of CANADA judges to ALL be  bilingual .. and not just bilingual enough to order lunch in the second language, but competent to hear Supreme Court cases as well!

Under current rules, lawyers can address the Supreme Court (and many other court bodies and  government agencies and departments) in either official language.  But the judges need not be bilingual … not all are … because translation is provided.

But Godin’s bill would apparently make unilingual Canadians (English or French) INELIGIBLE  for appointment to the Supreme Court.

In the real world, that would ensure few Western Canadians could ever be appointed!

Let’s face it … it is much more likely that, living in a sea of 360 million North Americans speaking English,  Francophone professionals aspiring to national positions of any kind (business or law) already have huge incentives and opportunites to learn/work/use English.  

But French is just not as common a working language in Western Canada.  So chances are there would be very few Anglophone  lawyers, or provincial court judges HERE would have sufficient proficiency to hear/understand complex legal issues in French. (That’s why we have translation … to make sure the litigants get a fair opportunity to be fully understood.)

So the real effect of REQUIRING FULLY BILINGUAL judges on the Supreme Court will shut out many, many highly qualified Western Canadian jurists.  And slant the Court even more with Central and Eastern Canadians. Maybe that’s the real objective … eliminate the Western perspective or interpretations on national issues?

Now, I know you may be thinking … it’s only a Private Members Bill, Harvey!

Oui, c’est vrai!  But Cleroux reports, and I trust his accuracy completely, “The debate picks up in the Fall, with all three Opposition parties in favour of having obligatory bilingual judges.”

With a minority government!  With the three Opposition parties holding a majority of the seats in the House of Commons .. this Bill could easily pass. 

In fact, only the Conservatives have opposed the idea.

I can understand Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois taking that position, but I’ll bet you haven’t heard a peep out HERE from the Liberals’ Michael Ignatieff or the NDP’s Jack Layton about their parties’ intention to support that position … and once more turn their backs on Westerners.

Sound the alarm!

What is YOUR MP doing about this???  As I said, with Westerners holding  a minority of  seats in the House of Commons  … this Bill could easily be rammed through by the Central and Eastern Canada majority.

Clearly, if Cleroux’s article is correct and the Bill will come forward this Fall with Opposition support,  the West really doesn’t count for much with  the Liberals and NDP, regardless of what they tell you when they “drop in” for a visit.

Action speaks louder than words … something Western Canadians have long learned and suffered under, regardless of the federal party in power.

Maybe the time to speak up (WAKE UP WESTERN MEDIA!!!) is NOW,  before the Fall vote takes place.

Harv Oberfeld

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6 Responses to Ottawa Move Could Ensure Few Supreme Court Judges from West

  1. AJ says:

    Thank you Pierre! The greatest Prime Minister there ever was! Yup.

  2. D. M. Johnston says:

    Don’t blame Pierre, blame ourselves. Canada was never and still is no a bilingual country. And when the Eastern power-base, closes the West from government, the West will secede from Canada, it is as simple as that.

    When the western Canadians understand that they have become second class citizens in Canada, only the then will the seeds of revolution be sown.

    Unlike Quebec, which has a national temper tantrum every decade or so, to get more out of Ottawa, the split in the West will be sudden and very nasty, and I’m afraid, very violent.

    Hang on Harv, I think this roller-coaster ride is going to start in the next decade.

    (Response; And it’s not just the latest attack re Supreme Court Justices. Look at the Senate. Look at federal spending/promises .. just lately cancelled funding for an international busin ess conferecne that would have been held in Victoria in leadup to Olympics and also still havent decided/provided funding for a Canada House reception centre here for the Games. Does ANYONE believe the Olympic Games in Quebec/Ontario were/ever would be treated this way? I’m sure they WILL fund host centre here .. but it will be a last-minute half-assed minimal effort.. again well below anything they would do in Toronto/Montreal. h.o.)

  3. Fred says:

    “Apparently NDP MP Yvon Godin, from New Brunswick, has introduced a Private Member’s Bill that would require SUPREME COURT of CANADA judges to ALL be bilingual .”

    No worries Harvey, a judge who’s second language is Mandarin or Punjabi or Cree would also qualify.

    Or one who speaks English and Newfie would be a good candidate. 🙂

    (Response: Unfortunately the bill recognizes only Eng and French. At least your ideas would be a better reflection of BC than the proposed change! 🙂 h.o.)

  4. Jim says:

    The proposed bill C232 is an outrageous insult to Western Canada, perpetrated by an Easterner who, typically, thinks he speaks for “Canada” and “Canadian interests” when in fact he speaks from local perspectives only. This has long been the label assigned to those from Toronto – “the centre of the universe” mentality.

    In fact, every Canadian west of the Ottawa Valley ought to object to this regional bias immediately, as French is just not present enough to be a factor in day-to-living much less in the Courts. In BC, French is totally irrelevant. According to the 2001 Census, 75% of British Columbians reported English as their mother tongue; 1.4% reported French. In BC, French ranks way behind Chinese and Punjabi, and even German as mother tongue.

    Yet there are many fine legal minds from BC, not to mention the rest of English-speaking Canada, whose skills and judgments we must not cut off from access to appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.

    Just exactly how does Yvon Godin’s private members bill propose to improve the situation? What possible arguments could be made for this almost “racist” proposal? This is a very serious matter, forged in wrong-headed thinking and it must be stopped.

    Political leaders take note – support of this bill will drive another wedge between Eastern interests and Western Canada. We are sick of paying the invoices for “official bilingualism” when they add no value except to a vocal minority.

  5. Elaine says:

    It’s time for Western Canada to split ! Enough of this language barrier for many unilingual speaking Canadians. You will find many Canadians leaving for the west, if only, the western provinces would decide to leave Canada ! Go for it ! You have my vote.

  6. U.L. says:

    You will find many Canadians leaving for the west, if only, the western provinces would decide to leave Canada ! Go for it ! You have my vote.

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