The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages
Justice sector witnesses share their views for modernizing the Official Languages Act
April 10, 2019
Ottawa – A Senate committee solicited testimony from justice sector experts to help determine how to bring the Official Languages Act into the 21st century.
This testimony forms the basis of the Senate Committee on Official Languages’ fourth interim report, entitled Modernizing the Official Languages Act: The Views of the Justice Sector.
The report, released Wednesday, finds that greater consistency is needed between the provisions of the act that deal with legislative and judicial bilingualism. This means improving existing practices and defining new ones in the act and reviewing the mechanisms for implementing the act.
Justice sector experts stressed the importance of ensuring equal access to justice in both official languages for all Canadians, an achievement requiring clear objectives, defined responsibilities, ongoing collaboration among the various stakeholders and effective remedies.
Once again, the committee heard arguments for the mandatory bilingualism of Supreme Court judges at the time of their appointment.
The report concludes that modernizing the act is an opportunity for the federal government to ensure the substantive equality of Canada’s two official languages in the legislative and judicial areas.
The committee will continue its study by consulting with federal institutions. A final report with recommendations to the federal government will be released later this year.
- The Official Languages Act turns 50 years old in 2019; its last major reform took place in 1988.
- The committee has already consulted with young Canadians, official language minority communities, and witnesses of the evolution of the Act in the first three parts of this study.
“We strongly believe an in-depth review of the Act is needed to better protect Canadians’ language rights and we know now that justice sector experts support this belief. We’ve heard many of the ideas in this report from the other sectors we studied. We also heard new ideas specific to the drafting of legislation and to access to justice in both official languages.”
- Senator René Cormier, Chair of the committee
“As the committee carried on its pan-Canadian consultations, the evidence continued to clearly demonstrate the importance of modernizing the Official Languages Act. For this fourth sector, justice sector experts stressed the importance of ensuring equal access to justice in English and French for all Canadians.”
- Senator Rose-May Poirier, Deputy Chair of the committee
- Read the report, Modernizing the Official Languages Act: The Views of the Justice Sector.
- Read the committee’s first three interim reports.
- Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #OLLO.
- Sign up for the Senate eNewsletter.
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