Home Legal News Supreme Court of Canada reviewing appeal involving lack of interpreter services in Quebec courts

Supreme Court of Canada reviewing appeal involving lack of interpreter services in Quebec courts

by HR Law Canada

A pivotal case highlighting the discrepancies in court interpreter services in Quebec has reached the Supreme Court of Canada, according to the Independent Canadian Commission on Civil and Human RIghts.

While provinces like Ontario have adhered to past Supreme Court decisions by offering interpreter services in court, allegations have surfaced that Quebec has not extended the same support to its significant English-speaking and “allophone” communities, it said in a press release.

The Leave to Appeal application involving Ville de Gatineau is spearheaded by Raymond Carby-Samuels, who argues the fundamental importance of equal access to justice regardless of one’s primary language. His concerns are rooted in the controversial Bill-96, which endeavors to solidify French as Quebec’s “common language.”

Language disparities within and outside Quebec are at the forefront, given the principles of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Advocates stress that every Canadian should possess the capability to defend their rights in court, irrespective of language barriers.

The case, Carby-Samuels v. Ville de Gatineau, gained prominence after the Quebec Human Rights Commission sided with Carby-Samuels in a discrimination claim against the Gatineau Police Services. In a subsequent tribunal, Carby-Samuels alleges that the City of Gatineau’s legal team conversed exclusively in French and failed to provide necessary translations, compromising his ability to adequately represent his interests.

The path this case has taken through Quebec’s legal system underscores the ongoing debate about interpreter availability. Despite repeated appeals, Carby-Samuels was consistently denied a court interpreter, prompting the current appeal to Canada’s highest court.

Historical rulings underscore the imperative nature of interpreter assistance in court, linking it to the very tenets of natural justice. Yet, Quebec’s Bill-96 and associated policies are under scrutiny for potentially marginalizing non-francophone communities.

Supporting the appeal, the Independent Canadian Commission on Civil and Human Rights asserts that the French language can be more constructively promoted through educational, cultural, and literary pursuits. They suggest that policies that may seem to curtail the rights of non-francophones might be counterproductive, not truly reflecting the values of the majority of Quebec citizens or the rule of law.

With potential ramifications for a vast number of non-francophones in Quebec, the Carby-Samuels case raises pertinent questions about the province’s judicial impartiality, the broader application of the Canadian Charter, and the general treatment of linguistic minorities.

The Independent Canadian Commission on Civil and Human Rights encourages legal professionals and interested parties to collaborate in affirming the rights and freedoms in Quebec, and has invited inquiries through their official website.

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