Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

August 14, 2007 14:30 ET

Justice in Both Official Languages: A Matter of Respect According to Graham Fraser

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Aug. 14, 2007) - Jurists have an important role to play in the evolution of linguistic duality and access to justice according to Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages.

"Canadian jurists have the esteemed role of giving life to the underlying values and principles of the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, of which linguistic duality and respect for minorities are key elements," Mr. Fraser told members of the Canadian Bar Association at their annual conference.

The Commissioner argued that a key value underlies Canadian language rights. "In Canada, having access to justice in the official language of choice is fundamentally a question of respect," he said.

He took the opportunity to outline the progress achieved in this field over the past four decades. For example, language guarantees in the Charter have been essential in ensuring the vitality and development of official language minority communities. As for the Official Languages Act, it specifically gives parties appearing before a federal court the right to be heard by judges who understand their official language, without needing an interpreter.

However, the Commissioner suggests that challenges remain. "Despite the progress that has been made, there is still a lot to be done to ensure the Canadian justice system functions in both official languages," he said.

In several regions, there are not enough lawyers able to present arguments in both languages and too few judges can hear cases in both official languages. In addition to this lack of bilingual lawyers and judges there is also a lack of bilingual judicial staff and administrative resources.

According to Mr. Fraser, access to justice and the advancement of language rights is not solely the responsibility of government authorities and official language minority communities. Jurists must be made aware of the importance of not only informing their clients of their language rights, but also encouraging them to exercise these rights.

However, to ensure the development of linguistic duality in terms of access to justice, Canadian jurists need the support of provincial law associations, professional associations, law faculties and law firms.

This news release, as well as the Commissioner's speech, is available on-line at www.officiallanguages.gc.ca, under "What's New?"

Contact Information

  • Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
    Robin Cantin
    Manager, Media Relations
    613-995-0374
    Cellular: 613-324-0999
    robin.cantin@ocol-clo.gc.ca