Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

November 20, 2015 15:03 ET

Caron Boutet Case: Not the Ruling We'd Hoped for, Says Fraser, But It Confirms the Status of French in the West

GATINEAU, QUEBEC--(Marketwired - Nov. 20, 2015) - Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser hopes that governments in Western Canada will offer better services in French, following today's Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Caron Boutet case.

"Today's judgment is not the one I had hoped for. It is the end of a legal saga that gave Canadians an opportunity to know how deep French roots are in Western Canada," said Commissioner Fraser. "However, provincial governments could make their own decisions to move toward equality for the two language groups."

Fraser believes Alberta and Saskatchewan are currently open to improving services for their French-speaking communities in many areas, including access to justice. "I invite the federal government to initiate a dialogue with Alberta and Saskatchewan, with the goal of improving the bilingual capacity of the judicial system, among other things."

The Supreme Court of Canada's decision closes the door on a case that began in 2003 with a traffic ticket, but then forced the courts to rule on whether the legislative bilingualism that existed prior to the annexation of Rupert's Land was constitutionalized and still applied in Alberta and Saskatchewan today.

Rejecting the appeal, the Supreme Court nevertheless reaffirmed the importance of language rights in Canada: "There is, of course, no question that linguistic duality and linguistic rights with respect to French and English are deeply rooted in our history and reflect our fundamental principles of constitutionalism and the protection of minorities. They are basic to the very idea of Canada." (par. 5)

The Commissioner of Official Languages intervened in this case in support of the two Albertans involved.

"I would like to salute both Gilles Caron and Pierre Boutet," said Commissioner Fraser. "It takes a lot of time and energy to take a case all the way to the Supreme Court. Their dedication and the way the Francophone community mobilized to support them can only result in more respect for those who stand up for their language rights."

Awarding costs to Caron and Boutet, the Court stated that "this litigation is to the benefit of the broader Alberta public interest and the Franco-Albertan community generally."

Contact Information

  • To schedule an interview with the Commissioner:
    Nelson Kalil, Manager, Strategic Communications
    and Media Relations
    Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
    Telephone: 819-420-4714/Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368
    Cellular: 613-324-0999 / nelson.kalil@clo-ocol.gc.ca