Sunday, May 09, 2010

Former SCC Justice John Major Speaks Out Against Bilingual Court Bill

Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice John Major spoke out earlier this week against Bill C-232, legislation now before the Senate that would require that all future appointees to the Supreme Court be functionally bilingual.

As reported by the Ottawa Citizen:

The issue, which has quietly simmered for about two years, has erupted into fierce debate in legal and language-rights circles, with retired Supreme Court judge John Major leading the charge against the pending legislation.

"The stakes are so high in some cases you just want the best people you can get," said Major, a unilingual Calgarian.

"If the test is the most competent versus the most competent who is somewhat bilingual, my own opinion is that I want the most competent judge.

"It's the same as surgery. I want the best doctor, I don't want the linguist."

Major predicted that the bill, if it becomes law, will be impossible to implement in Western Canada, where the vast majority of lawyers and judges do not speak French.

"The chances are the most competent judge will have spent a lifetime in English."

"You'd have to go quite a way down the line to find the bilingual one, which most of the time, in this part of the world, means compromising legal ability," Major said.

Mr. Justice John C. Major served on the Supreme Court of Canada from 1992 to 2005. His Supreme Court of Canada biography is here.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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