Several federal delegates demonstrated in Quebec on Sunday to defend the rights of anglophones.
Released at 5:00 p.m.
But where do these members care about language rights when their government appoints a non-French-speaking governor general? Or the Lieutenant Governor of the only official English-speaking Anglophone in the bilingual province of New Brunswick?
Subscribers who do not have them, because French is an unofficial language outside of Quebec, even though it should be official.
Recent example: The federal government announced on Tuesday that it would appeal a ruling declaring the appointment of a new Brunswick lieutenant-governor unconstitutional on the basis of language.
Brenda Murphy, who has a distinguished record of advocating for the rights of women and sexual minorities, was appointed Lieutenant Governor in 2019 by Justin Trudeau.
Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick filed a petition seeking revocation of this appointment.
To everyone’s surprise, the Chief Justice of the Queens Bench Court of New Brunswick (equivalent to the High Court in Quebec), Tracy Dever, agreed with the Agadians.
The judge said bilingualism was essential to the post of lieutenant-governor if constitutional law made sense. Politically, the function is insignificant. But legally, it is a constitutional requirement, especially to enforce a law with its seal.
However, the Charter of Rights states, “French and English are the official languages of New Brunswick;
In principle, both linguistic communities have “equal status and equal rights and privileges”.
The lieutenant governor is a person, but she is also a company.
“It is difficult to understand how one can conclude that the appointment of a non-linguistic lieutenant-governor is consistent with the goal of following the charter,” the Chief Justice writes.
“Unlike the elected members, they form the government and the opposition together, and there is only one lieutenant-governor of the province.
The federal government argued that the language duty did not apply to that person, and that if the lieutenant governor was a French-speaking person, its argument would be the same. The judge did not swallow this rhetorical snake: a languageless Francophone lieutenant governor certainly has never been, and will not be.
“English Phone New Brunswickers, it may be difficult to accept a lieutenant governor delivering a speech in French from the throne, or only with a few limited paragraphs in English,” Judge Dever wrote. It would be disappointing if a non-speaking French-speaking lieutenant governor had difficulty speaking with English-speaking citizens at social events or at ceremonies such as the presentation of gifts or specials such as the Order of New Brunswick. However the same facts are imposed on the French-speaking New French. ⁇
Judge Diver therefore believes that the Trudeau government has violated its constitutional obligations. But taking into account the separation of powers, the appointment was not canceled. She leaves the responsibility of deciding the right solution to the administrator, which is one way: this is the last time you will do this.
The ruling raises a number of legal and political questions … and raises criticism everywhere outside of Acadia.
Note that the same constitutional equality of languages exists for federal institutions. Following in the footsteps of Judge Dwyer, Mary Simon’s appointment last year was unconstitutional because she did not speak French – or speak very little.
Let’s push rationality further. What about the New Brunswick premiere? Plane Hicks is a language anglophone. He was not “appointed”, he was elected a vice president. But the spirit of the Constitution imposes even more on the bilingual who communicates with the public on a daily basis. Can you imagine a languageless Francophone prime minister in Fredericton or Ottawa? Obviously not. But is this a political or constitutional obligation?
This ruling, which appears to be purely provincial, opens all kinds of legal doors.
Three Federal Liberal MPs, including Agadians Serge Gormier and Rene Arsenal, have condemned the government’s decision to appeal the ruling.
Official Languages Minister Jeanette Pettibas-Taylor said it was only to test the “technical” points of the constitutional interpretation. He said the Trudeau government “fully agrees” with the policy of appointing a bilingual person in the future.
But this “full contract” was obtained after a fierce struggle.
Because this is one of Canada’s rules of political attraction. It has always been easy to mobilize politicians against the Quebec government’s encroachment to protect the French. In Canada it is very difficult to mobilize the rights of francophones outside the communities concerned against long-term, institutionalized neglect.