Canadian Heritage

Canadian Heritage

June 19, 2008 15:45 ET

The Government of Canada Announces a New Program to Support Linguistic Rights

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 19, 2008) - Minority official-language communities will be able to assert their rights through the Government of Canada's new Program to Support Linguistic Rights.

The Honourable Josee Verner, Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages and Minister for La Francophonie and Pierre Lemieux, Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages and Member of Parliament (Glengary-Prescott-Russell), today announced the creation of a new Program to Support Linguistic Rights.

The Government of Canada will invest $1.5 million annually in the new program, which stresses better understanding of linguistic rights and focuses on mediation and consensus-based decisions to facilitate amicable agreements.

"The Government of Canada is committed to supporting linguistic duality and to providing tangible assistance to minority official-language communities," said Minister Verner. "The Government believes that special efforts must be made to give official-language minority communities better access to information on language rights and alternative dispute settlement methods, so that they can gain recognition for their rights."

"I am delighted our Government is demonstrating leadership in the recognition of the linguistic rights of minority official-language communities," said Mr. Lemieux. "Through this new program, the Government of Canada recognizes that linguistic duality is a key feature in creating the Canada we want to pass on to our children."

The program will also provide funding for court proceedings to focus on linguistic rights under the Constitution of Canada, when mediation efforts have failed and a test case is involved.

Funding for this new program comes directly from the Development of Official-Language Communities Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. This new program seeks to promote the development of Canada's French- and English-speaking minority communities and to help them take full part in all aspects of Canadian life.

For more information on the new Program to Support Linguistic Rights, please consult the attached backgrounder.

This news release is available on the Internet at www.canadianheritage.gc.ca under Media Room.


NEW LINGUISTIC RIGHTS SUPPORT PROGRAM

BACKGROUNDER

New Program objectives

- to promote awareness of linguistic rights through public education

- to offer access to mediation and arbitration to settle disputes out of court

- to support litigation that helps to clarify linguistic rights when test cases are involved and mediation efforts have failed

Expected results

- better understanding by the Canadian public of linguistic rights and the conditions for exercising these rights

- preventive and amicable settlement of a larger number of disputes related to recognition and application of rights targeted by the Program

- clarification of linguistic rights by the courts

Targeted linguistic rights

The new Program supports linguistic rights deriving from constitutional texts:

- sections 16 to 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including linguistic aspects related to freedom of expression cited in section 2 for cases concerning official-language minorities

- sections 93 or 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867

- section 23 of the Manitoba Act, 1870

- any constitutional provision paralleling the rights identified above

The three components of the Program

Information and Promotion: This component is aimed at the Canadian public in general and, more particularly, minority official-language communities. Its objective is an overall improvement in awareness of the linguistic rights targeted by the Program. It will help support information initiatives on these rights.

Compulsory Mediation: The objective of this component is to prevent new disputes and the worsening of existing disputes concerning the interpretation of linguistic rights targeted by the Program or their application by the different levels of government and to facilitate consensus-based settlement of these disputes.

Legal Remedies: The intent of this component is to help groups or individuals bring to court an unresolved dispute concerning a linguistic right targeted by the Program. The dispute must be a test case that could lead to new developments in current law. To be eligible for the assistance provided for the litigation component, the applicants must demonstrate that they have completed the compulsory mediation component.

Program Management

Implementation: The Minister will entrust the implementation of the Program to a third party represented by a recognized institution serving the public, such as a university. The aim of this approach is to meet the highest criteria of impartiality by avoiding a situation in which the Government finds itself both judge and litigant in the implementation of the Program's activities. The chosen third party will be associated with Canadian Heritage through a contribution agreement.

Operation: After consultation with various key stakeholders from official-language communities, the Minister will appoint a committee in charge of selecting merit-based cases to be funded by the Program. The committee will consist of experts (e.g. key figures from the legal field such as former judges, recognized experts on linguistic rights, community leaders) and will report to the third party.

Accountability and reporting: The mandate of the chosen third party will be to implement the Program in accordance with the provisions of the contribution agreement. The third party will report to the Department on its activities and the proper use of funds entrusted to it. In addition, the Program will include strengthened accountability and reporting procedures.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage,
    Status of Women and Official Languages
    and Minister for La Francophonie
    Dominic Gosselin
    Press Secretary
    819-997-7788
    or
    Canadian Heritage
    Donald Boulanger
    A/Chief, Media Relations
    819-994-9101