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Anglophone Judges
Posted By Senator Elaine McCoy Apr 21 2010 08:24AM

Senator Claudette Tardif (AB) introduced Bill C-232 in the Senate yesterday, a bill that passed in the Commons with the support of all parties except the Conservatives.  If it also succeeds in the Upper Chamber, only fluently bilingual jurists will be eligible for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.  Good grief.  Have the opposition parties gone completely mad?

Why should we go out of our way to disqualify the great majority of outstanding jurists in this country on the grounds of linguistic ability?  It makes absolutely no sense.  It's not as if decisions at the Supreme Court hang or fall on clever oral repartee.  All cases are presented in writing, and thoroughly digested by the justices before lawyers get anywhere close to repeating their assertions in court.  In some cases, the judges don't even call upon counsel for further argument because their written materials are so well crafted nothing remains to be said. 

To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, this is not an idea to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown away with great force.

Posted On Sep 28 07:13PM   

What is the matter with Sen. Claudette Tardiff? Thats prejudicial treatment of Angliphones.  What ever happened to the Level Playing field for Employment Oportunities? There certainly is an errosion of equalOpportunity in Government Jobs, the RCMP and National and large Business in Canada.  It is obvious when a receptionist answers the phone that They are hired for their ability to speak French, not necessarily good English, rather for their business accumin.  Is this what We as Canadians want to display to our neighbors? If this bill becomes Law, how long before it is challenged under the Constitutiional Law? Lets make the Highest Court in the land be open to all, and if Anglophones Win out by Qualification, so be it.

Posted On Apr 23 01:01AM   

Dear Senator McCoy,

I think you may be overstating the reach of the bill. As pointed out by Max Yalden already, C-232does not require fluency in both Official Languages, only that "In addition, any person referred to in subsection (1), who understands French and English without the assistance of an interpreter, may be appointed a judge." As Yalden remarked, that "is a quite different, and less demanding, criterion." Drastically less demanding. And I'm sure you know that simply understanding speech is quite different from the requirement to be fully bilingual, or be able to speak or write fluently. And you are too canny to confuse the difference between interpreters and translators. The bill has the very mild aim that the Supreme Court meet the same basic standard as all other courts, the Federal Court, Tax Court, Court of Appeal, etc., which have all had the same requirement for years now, with no noticeable problem. It is a standard the Supreme Court has itself approved and advanced, for all other Federal courts and institutions. And eight of the nine current Supreme Court justices currently meet that mild criterion of oral understanding, and it was nine of nine until recently, and I know of no-one that has accused those courts' composition as evidence of lower legal standards, have you?

All this to say that I would suggest that this bill is quite mild in its reach and helpful in ensuring that justice be done and be seen to be done, as no lawyer would wonder if some nuance of his oral arguments had been lost by the interpreters, especially if they lost a close 5-4 vote, and that the justices could have their internal discussions in either official language, neither one nor the other becoming the superior default language; otherwise, for example, if eight justices are bilingual in oral understanding and one is unilingual, inevitably, all discussions will be held in the language of the one unilingual, which is not something any fair-minded Canadian would want.

I am sure that you will take the time, as always, to follow the debate closely and think deeply on these matters, while reflecting on how best to achieve legal excellence within the context of a fair and officially bilingual society, as advocatedby Prime MInisters and leaders of all parties, such as Pearson, Stanfield, Trudeau, Clark, Turner, Mulroney, Chrétien, Charest, and Martin, and by the Canadian Bar Association and the Quebec National Assembly (unanimously).

Yours respectfully,


Posted On Apr 22 11:27AM   

We are taking the wrong approach to supporting bilingualism in Canada.  While it has tremendous value, I think that the current forceful approach is having the opposite effect where people are beginning to resent bilingualism.  Multilingual job criteria needs to be applied where it makes sense…this is not an issue where it has to be all or nothing…..where has our MOTR strategy gone when it comes to this issue?

Posted On Apr 21 08:44AM   

It always astounds me how far anglophone Canada will go to accommodate francophone Canada.  Yes, we should have francophone judges on the Supreme Court.  We are 25% francophone after all (though largely in one province, Quebec).  But to make everyone french-english bilingual just limits the pool of talent on BOTH sides.

And this is why so many new immigrants and visible minorities don't make it to high levels in our public service, politics and now, possibly, the Supreme Court: they may speak 4 languages, but only one 'official' language and so they are not good enough. 

This is a stupid, backward policy that would not have the support of the majority of Canadians, I think.


Into all things politics, policy and parliamentary.

Posted On Apr 21 08:39AM   

I completely agree, Senator McCoy.  We are a proud multiculti society, and sticking with Supreme Court justices who, let's face it, will likely have to come from New Brunswick, Quebec or the Ottawa-Gatineau region to be fluently bilingual in French and English is limiting and ludicrous.

We already tie our hands in the public service this way with crazy mandatory bilingualism (french-english) in all posts, whether those skills would be useful or not. But if you disagree with this notion, you are assumed to be anti-French (or English).

Far from it: I'm proud of our French-English-Native heritage, and think, pragmatically, where it is needed, services should be available in these languages.  But I'm also proud of our present and future, which is a multicultural, multilingual hue.

By all means, prioritize public servants, politicians and justices who speak more than one of language -- but let's not limit ourselves to our past (French, English), but to our future (Cantonese or Punjabi anyone?)

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