Quebec group goes to court over Governor General Mary Simon’s lack of French

The group, led by historian Frédéric Bastien, petitioned the Quebec Superior Court this week for a declaratory judgment finding that Simon’s nomination violates Charter provisions declaring Canada bilingual.

The former candidate for leader of the Parti Québécois says that electing a governor general who does not speak one of the country’s official languages ​​is an insult to Francophones and a sign that bilingualism does not matter.

“It sends a bad message to French Canadians and Acadians that they are second-class citizens, that official bilingualism is something that is just not important, (that) we can get rid of it as needed,” he said in an interview Thursday. .

His group builds on court precedent in New Brunswick, where French-speaking Acadians recently challenged the appointment of a monolingual Anglophone lieutenant governor on similar grounds. A judge ruled in April that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated constitutional language protections when he nominated Brenda Murphy, but the judge added that nullifying the nomination could “create a legislative and constitutional crisis.”

Simon speaks English and Inuktitut and has promised to learn French, but Bastien said the government should have chosen one of several qualified indigenous candidates who speak both official languages.

“Our view is that the Constitution says that the appointee must be bilingual,” Bastien said. “It doesn’t say you have to learn French at work.”

The court challenge cites articles of the Charter and the Constitution that establish that French and English have the same status and that citizens have the right to communicate with the federal government and receive services in either language. She also argues that the Governor General’s unique role in the constitutional system means that she personally, and not just her office, must be bilingual.

“Unlike the members of the Senate and the House of Commons, the natural person of the Governor General is the only person who exercises the position of this ‘institution’, which allows us to conclude that the legal person and the natural person of the El Governor General is one and the same,” the document says.

Representatives for Simon and federal Attorney General David Lametti directed requests for comment to the Office of the Privy Council, which said Thursday that it received the complaint and will “review it closely.”

“Since taking office almost a year ago, Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General, Mary Simon, has represented Canada abroad, hosted world leaders in Canada, honored the achievements of members of the Canadian Armed Forces and has had the opportunity to meet Canadians from all over the country. who represent our diversity,” spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold said in an email.

“The Governor General has done a remarkable job and shown great leadership in carrying out the duties of her office.”

Bastien said the documents were filed in the High Court on Wednesday and are a “Canada Day gift to Mr. Trudeau.” A hearing date has not yet been set.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 30, 2022.

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