A major setback! The Supreme Court of Canada rules that the Act of 1731 is still in effect!
Richmond, July 26, 2013 – A major setback for all francophone citizens of the country! The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that an act dating from 1731, which imposes English as the language of use in the courts of British colonies, is still in effect in British Columbia, thereby refusing to recognise the slightest possibility of using French in civil cases heard in the courts of this province.
In 2012, the British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld a judgement handed down by a lower court, requiring the Conseil scolaire francophone and the Fédération des parents francophones de Colombie-Britannique to provide English translations for all the documents submitted in their legal action against the provincial Ministry of Education to obtain parity on the issue of francophone education in the province. The judgement concluded that the Act of 1731 remains in effect in British Columbia.
However, the decision handed down today by the seven judges of the Supreme Court of Canada is not unanimous.
With regard to the case brought before the courts by the CSF, the Fédération des parents and the co-plaintiff parents, this judgement could have serious consequences and could force the parties to have thousands of pages of documents translated into English, thereby significantly increasing the costs related to legal proceedings, in spite of the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Education to function in French.
For Roger Hébert, President of the Conseil scolaire francophone: « This judgement unfortunately demonstrates that francophone minorities still have a long road to travel before their rights are recognised in the courts. » Mr. Hébert added: « We have lost this battle because the province has invoked an obscure law that was passed nearly three hundred years ago. But we are engaged in a much greater cause to obtain equitable treatment in the field of education in British Columbia. This is a just cause and we will take it to the finish. »