A judge sounds the alarm | Reform of Bill 101 could lead to Jordan rulings

The Legault government’s reform of the French language could have serious consequences as early as next June: Jordan rulings due to delays in translating all judgments into French. Despite strong opposition from state lawyers, a judge exceptionally decided to rule on the constitutional validity of the law.

“The prospect of systemic additional delays for all files in English, due to mandatory translation (…), is significant,” warns Judge Dennis Galiatsatos in an unprecedented decision rendered Wednesday at the Montreal courthouse.


Justice Dennis Galiatsatos, then Crown prosecutor

At the heart of the dispute: article 10 of the Act respecting the official and common language of Quebec (former Bill 96), adopted in 2022, which states that a French version of a judgment rendered in writing in English must be attached “immediately and without delay”. This provision comes into force on 1er next June.

In an exceptional initiative, Judge Dennis Galiatsatos of the Court of Quebec decided Wednesday that he had the right to study the constitutionality of this provision, which is possibly discriminatory against English speakers. Government lawyers tried everything to prevent it.

This issue was raised in the run-up to Christine Pryde’s trial, scheduled for early June at the Montreal courthouse. The 32-year-old woman is accused of dangerous driving and criminal negligence causing death for mowing down a cyclist, Irène Dehem, in May 2021 in west Montreal. Christine Pryde chose to have her trial in English, as is her constitutional right.


Christine Pryde (right) at the Montreal courthouse in 2023.

In his decision, Judge Galiatsatos details the concrete consequences of Article 10. After the two-week trial, he will have to take the time to draft a written judgment, in English. However, instead of filing it now, he will have to wait for the official translation into French. In practice, this will lead to delays of several weeks, and more probably several months, since the judgment will have to be translated, then revised and corrected, worries Judge Galiatsatos.

Without contesting the constitutionality of the Act, Christine Pryde’s lawyers are calling for a halt to the judicial process for unreasonable delays under the Jordan decision (a trial must end 18 to 30 months after indictment). The defense argues that the Act causes unfair prejudice to English-speaking accused, since they will have to wait longer than French-speakers to obtain a judgment.

A “non-existent problem”

The Attorney General of Quebec (PGQ) and the Attorney General of Canada (PGC), the governments’ lawyers, opposed Judge Galiatsatos’ initiative, arguing that he did not have the power to raise this himself. issue, while the defense refuses to do so.

The AGC cited a “non-existent problem (…) imagined” by the judge, and even suggested letting defense lawyers file Charter motions in every English trial.

It would have the effect of derailing all the trials in English in the province. This would be unethical with regard to the proper allocation of judicial resources.

Justice Dennis Galiatsatos

The magistrate is thus scathing towards the position of government lawyers. He says their arguments demonstrate a great misunderstanding of how a criminal trial works and the functions of a judge. His “careful” explanations visibly “fell on deaf ears”, he continues.

“When the court raised the harsh reality, the two attorneys general either refused to answer my questions or repeated their slogan: ‘We don’t know what will happen. (…) “A repeated slogan, even if it is clearly incorrect,” deplores the judge.

According to the Attorney General of Quebec, the issue raised by the judge is “imprecise and incomplete”. However, replies Judge Galiatsatos, the issue is extremely clear: the systemic postponement of each judgment rendered in English for reasons unrelated to criminal law.

Judge Galiatsatos gave government lawyers two weeks to take positions with a view to a substantive debate on the constitutionality of article 10. The judge said he expected to receive “enlightening” analyzes from them.

“We can indeed assume that the provision was not put in place on a whim. It is obvious that provincial elected officials have already thought at length about the consequences of this provision on the functioning of criminal courts in Greater Montreal,” writes the judge.

“The provincial government consciously chose to legislate in an area affecting criminal law. As first-year law students learn, criminal law is notoriously under federal jurisdiction. This does not allow us to conclude that section 10 is invalid. However, we can (presume), at a minimum, that the Attorney General of Quebec has already seriously studied this question,” affirms the judge.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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