(Ottawa) The commissioners who will sit on the new commission to examine judicial errors will not be required to be able to speak and understand French and English clearly.
The elected officials who sit on the standing committee on justice and human rights opposed, Thursday, six to five, a Bloc Québécois amendment which aimed to include this provision on bilingualism in the bill.
More specifically, the four Conservative MPs and the NDP MP rejected the proposal. Among the Liberals, four MPs voted in favor, namely Quebecers Élisabeth Brière, Anju Dhillon and Anthony Housefather, and Ontarian Marco Mendicino. But their Ontario colleague James Maloney stood apart and his vote was decisive.
“So, we are abandoning bilingualism in Canada,” sent the Bloc justice spokesperson, Rhéal Éloi Fortin, when the result was announced. “It’s not possible,” added Mr. Mendicino.
In a press release, MP Fortin expressed regret that “once again” French was “treated as a second-class language” in “a country supposed to be bilingual”.
During the very brief debate on the motion, Mr. Fortin argued that “if we want everyone to have access to a fair judicial review”, it is essential that the commissioners, who will play a quasi-judicial role, be “at least” able to work “effectively” in both official languages.
The only other elected official who asked to speak is New Democrat Randall Garrison. According to him, the amendment would have “undesirable effects” since it would prevent “unilingual francophones” and Indigenous people who speak “for example French and Cree” from being appointed commissioners. At no time did he refer to unilingual English speakers.
Mr. Garrison mentioned that the commission will offer bilingual services and translation services. “It will therefore be a commission that will operate in both official languages,” he added. But when you appoint nine commissioners, some full-time and some part-time, I think that restricts the pool (of commissioners) too much. »
The Conservative Party of Canada did not respond at the time of publication to a request for comment from The Canadian Press aimed at explaining the vote of all of its MPs sitting on the committee.
The bill that was being debated, C-40 by its nickname, passed the committee stage at the end of Thursday’s meeting.
It provides for the creation of an independent commission to review, investigate and decide which criminal cases should be referred to the courts. The objective is to facilitate and accelerate the examination of applications from Canadians who claim to be victims of a miscarriage of justice.
Former Justice Minister David Lametti, who was initially its sponsor, also said he hoped that this would make these revisions more accessible to women, indigenous peoples and racialized Canadians.
The legislation was dubbed “David and Joyce Milgaard’s Law,” after the Canadian who was released in 1992 after being wrongly imprisoned for 23 years, and his mother Joyce, who fought tirelessly for all these years to get him released.