“The government is fundamentally opposed to the bill because we believe that we must be guided by the principles of merit and legal excellence,” Ms. LeBreton said. She said the bill discriminates against unilingual Canadians and would reduce the pool of qualified candidates for the Supreme Court.
As the Bill faces a lingering death in the Senate, voices are being raised across the editorial pages in Quebec voicing concern that the use of the unelected Senate to block the 'will of the elected' is unethical as well as unfair.
The Bill's sponsor, Yves Godin, a NDP member from Acadie-Bathurst, in New-Brunswick (a francophone riding) is furious that after eight months the Bill is going nowhere. Every time it comes up for debate, the Conservative senators use a variety of devices to keep the Bill from reaching the committee in an effort to stall until the Conservatives achieve an absolute majority in the Senate. That happened this week when the Prime Minister named two more Conservatives to the senate and the balance of power shifted to the Conservative side.
The debate over a bilingual Supreme Court is interesting because it isn't really a fight for bilingualism, rather it is a brawl between francophones and anglophones over political control of the Canada's highest court.
The argument is made that it is important that judges be able to hear cases without the aid of simultaneous translation, as a courtesy and necessity to Francophones petitioners, who should be accorded the right to be heard directly.
This argument is patently foolish and doesn't hold up to scrutiny at all.
In lower court cases (below the appellate division), be it civil or criminal, it is important for judges to assess the veracity, truthfulness and credibility of the witnesses. This requires a judge to be able to understand the language spoken, either English or French.
But the Supreme Court is different, the legal arguments presented by lawyers are based on sterile legalities and the oratorical skill of the presenter is irrelevant. The arguments always refer to points of law, and lawyers argue dispassionately without the device of showmanship, hyperbole or theatrics, which would actually be detrimental to one's chances to prevail.
There is zero chance that anything is lost by the use of simultaneous translation, and to say so, is utter tripe.
The questions put to lawyers by the Supremos after the presentation, are mostly technical and again translation has no deleterious affect. In fact, the oral question and answer phase is the least important part of the process, with the submitted brief what the Supreme Court actually uses to decide. Supreme Court cases are debated and decided behind closed doors.
The idea that Supreme Court judges should be bilingual may sound like a noble design, but it does in fact place a terrible burden and disadvantage to provinces like British Columbia, where French trials are practically unheard of and where French jury trials are restricted to just one jurisdiction, in New Westminster.
Do you think this fact is lost on those arguing for a bilingual Supreme Court?
Perhaps the learned jurists who argue for bilingual judges should be reminded of the principle of the 'balance of inconvenience'
Shutting out highly qualified Anglophone jurists is too high a price to pay for bilingualism. Only about 10 % of anglophones are bilingual as opposed to around 40 % of francophones and the majority come from Quebec.
The argument being offered by francophones is that the inconvenience should fall on the court, not the appellants, but the vast majority of Canadians are not bilingual and the court should reflect a cross-section of Canada. To be anything else is an 'inconvenience' to Canadians.
By the same logic, one could argue that all members of Parliament should also be bilingual, so that they may understand other member's speeches without any mechanical aid, another patently stupid and antidemocratic idea that would favour the minority over the majority.
The demand for bilingualism is nothing more than another power grab by Quebec to bolster the over-influence that the province already bears on the Supreme Court, a back door attempt that is rightfully and heroically being fended off by the government of the day.
Quebec already enjoys an asymmetrical representation on the Supreme Court with an enshrined right to three out of the nine judges, an over representation of almost 30%.
The debate over Mr. Harper's plan to add 30 more 'anglophone' seats to the federal Parliament is also being assailed in Quebec as inherently unfair.
Bloc Quebecois members are quick to argue in favour of an asymmetrical division of power in Ottawa that would increase Quebec and francophone power beyond that which the demographic numbers would justify, on the basis that it is the only way for francophones to have some level of say in the direction and policies of this country.
Canadians are not an unkind or ungenerous people. The idea of asymmetry could actually fly, save for the one fly in the ointment.
Quebec too, would have to act in good faith.
For the separatists, it's a case of having one's cake and eating it too. While militating for sovereignty, under any and all circumstances, they exhort Canadians to be more generous with the division of powers.
Ugh, Ugh.. that doesn't work for the ROC.
As long as Quebec sends separatists to Ottawa, the idea of giving Quebec more than proportional power is beyond ludicrous and no federal government should ever entertain the notion.
As long as Quebec voters sends separatists to Ottawa, every effort should be made by federalists to limit any courtesy or accommodation.
For Quebec, being an engaged and committed member part of this federation is a prerequisite to obtaining special treatment.
I wonder if these legal eagles who are arguing for an asymmetrical division of power to the benefit of Quebec and francophones would also extend the privilege to the anglophone minority in Quebec.
Anglophone and ethnic voters in the heavily populated urban ridings in the western and central part of the island of Montreal are already penalized in the provincial Parliament by having their vote worth about half of that of francophone voters in ridings in the boonies.
The decidedly anglo riding of Nelligan in the west island of Montreal boasts a voter base of 54,000 compared to just 27,000 in the exclusively francophone Gaspé riding.
Subsequently Anglos and ethnics are badly under-represented in Quebec National Assembly.
Consider that there are less than a dozen bone fide anglos and ethnics in Parliament (Some francophone members claim ethnic roots, they don't count) while demographics dictate that there should be over twenty.
Addressing this injustice (adding four or five new anglophone/allophone seats) would redress the unfair situation and for good measure and in keeping with the policy of asymmetric representation, perhaps even more of these seats could be added, beyond what pure demographics indicate.
This would lead to anglophones and allophones having a much larger say in Quebec's Parliament and is the exact same argument made by francophones who demand asymmetric representation in Ottawa.
Ridiculous? ....You bet.
In Quebec the idea of granting anglophones more voting power is laughable.
In Ottawa, granting francophones more voting power is fair...