Pierre Elliot Trudeau disciple challenges Quebec’s denial of access to justice through language law in the Court of Appeal
The Quebec Court of Appeal is currently reviewing a Notice of Motion against the Ville de Gatineau et al. after the Supreme Court of Canada deferred the matter on jurisdictional grounds. This is a pivotal case because it challenges the legality of language laws in Quebec given their impact on access to justice in Quebec’s courtrooms and tribunals.
Raymond Carby-Samuels, whose critical research in constitutional law was inspired by Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s championing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, points out that Premier François Legault’s government is pursuing an illegal direction. In his Notice to Quebec’s Court of Appeal, Carby-Samuels shows that the Quebec court system’s denial of access to court interpreter services is linked to the statutory legal framework codified by Bill-96, which says French is the “common language” of the province. He further argues that the ensuing legislation stands in complete violation of Canada’s Charter as a means of denying equal access to justiceand therefore must be aborted.
Carby-Samuels mounted the legal challenge in the wake of a Quebec Human Rights Tribunal hearing where Judge Catherine Pilon and a lawyer for DHC Avocats chose to speak to each other in court using only French, in complete awareness that Carby-Samuels would not be able to understand them. This behaviour was a violation of Supreme Court of Canada decisions that have sought to affirm the Canadian Charter; moreover, the choice is shocking as a clear oversight in law during a human rights tribunal.
Carby-Samuels has taken the position that Anglophones who seek to avail themselves of courts and tribunals in Quebec ought to be entitled to the same set of rights to a court interpreter as Francophones who enjoy such services outside of Quebec.
A Government of Ontario website stipulates that the province provides more than 150,000 hours of free court interpreter services as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions; these are the same decisions that Quebec and its court system scandalously ignore. Consideration is given to French speakers outside of Quebec, yet the province, which relies on substantive transfer payments from the other provinces, fails to offer the same courtesy to Quebec’s non-Francophone populations.
The Independent Canadian Commission on Civil and Human Rights supported the previous Leave to Appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court made the unusual decision to re-direct the case to the Quebec Court of Appeal rather than quashing the matter, which is the norm after such applications for Leave to Appeal.
This new legal challenge is particularly striking because it is based upon a profound understanding of constitutional law, a factor lacking in the relatively superficial challenges against Bill 96 to-date. Additionally, this challenge is unrestrained by the culture of deference among the lawyers in Quebec, which leads them to appease the Quebec authority from which they receive their next paycheque. The challenge is furthermore based upon an intimate appreciation of the forces who seek to repress the rights of non-Francophones through draconian laws that make a mockery of the notion of Quebec as a democratic society.
Separatist-nationalist doctrine is at the root of Quebec’s language laws, and the declaration by Quebec’s provincial government that French is the “common language” has nothing substantively to do with actually protecting the survival of the French language; but it has everything to do with an apparent effort to divide, rule, and conquer through historically rooted mass-disinformation.
It was former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau who stated that Canada is the true nation for the Francophone people. Notably, the very Canadian maple leaf has been a longstanding emblem for Francophones in their pursuit of cultural survival. This was documented in the introduction of Peter Tremblay’s book entitled The Supreme Court Challenge Against Bill-96 and Quebec’s Separatist Agenda: The Leave to Appeal for Access to Justice in Defence of Our Canadian Identity.
For the French settlers who arrived in the land that has been referred to as Canada since 1535, the maple leaf became a natural symbol of freedom in their newly adopted continent and demonstrated affinity with the indigenous communities whom they sought to emulate. In contrast, the fleur-de-lis conveyed the oppression of an Old World that French settlers left behind.
Pierre Elliot Trudeau understood this and championed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to encapsulate and affirm the very values of the French settlers who began to refer to themselves as les Canadiens to distinguish themselves from les Français. For les Canadiens, the maple leaf expressed the spirit of liberty, individual rights and freedom, and a multicultural bond with the peoples who were indigenous to the New World. These values were despised by the monarchical rulers of New France who rallied behind the fleur-de-lis as the emblem of the absolutist ruling Bourbon kings of France and the oppressive Roman Catholic authority that reinforced the monarchy.
The Quebec nationalists of today use the narrative of the preservation of the French language as a ploy for their true ambitions, which is to re-create New France, along with its Bourbon monarchy-inspired dictatorial values. They draw on the emblems and bigotry dismissed by Pierre Elliot Trudeau and other Francophones in Canada who regard themselves as non-conforming North Americans.
The current denial of rights for non-Francophones in Quebec is therefore rooted in fleur-de-lis revisionists who despise the “rebellious” North American value system of les Canadiens. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, on the other hand, championed les Canadiens and their ways of life, and it is this set of values that inspires Carby-Samuels in his pursuit to legally affirm a just society for all.
So-called “Quebec nationalism” and the “sovereignty-association” rhetoric of the current Legault government in Quebec are little more than efforts by Bourbon France revisionists to remove the values of les Canadiens entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The ancien régime of Bourbons, who haven’t ruled Canada since the British victory over imperial France in the early 1760s, haven’t been in power in France since the French Republic prevailed in the nineteenth century. However, the royal line lingered on and apparently lives through the impostors among Quebec’s elites who seek to restore their control.
The prevailing rulers of Quebec, who seek to rally Quebec under the rubric of the fleur-de-lis, are, impostors. The Francophones of centuries past rallied under the symbol of the maple leaf. They would be shocked to learn that the very symbol of colonial repression by the monarchy of France is vaunted today as a symbol of liberation. The fleur-de-lis, the emblem of the kings of France, is no more of an actual symbol of liberation to Canadian Francophones than the Confederate flag is a symbol of liberation to black people.
Unlike the British monarchy, the Bourbon monarchy saw itself as having no relationship whatsoever to parliamentary democracy. They ruled with an iron fist, eventually causing France to descend into a brutal revolution under the weight of the self-righteous authoritarianism of its rulers. This is what inspires the present-day leaders of the National Assembly who hypocritically wrap themselves in Quebec’s fleur-de-lis under an Orwellian deception that this is somehow a symbol of “anti-colonialism” while at the same time ignoring civil rights in Quebec.
In the rest of Canada, laws are to be respected, as are the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada in particular. In Quebec, elites put on the guise of the Bourbons and govern with no regard for fundamental rights and freedoms or Supreme Court of Canada decisions. People across Canada see this inequity and have had enough.
The efforts of Quebec’s apparent Neo-Bourbon aristocracy to now use the language of the Francophone masses to deny rights to non-Francophones in court systems and elsewhere in Quebec is immoral.
Bill-96 takes aim at Montreal because Francophones living there understand, more so than in any other part of Quebec, that they have nothing to fear from “the Anglos” or multiculturalism for that matter. Quebec’s Neo-Bourbon aristocracy essentially aims to attack the “Canadianization” of Montreal as a cosmopolitan social milieu using a false narrative that French is in decline.
The typical Montrealer has come to realize, like the Francophones in Paris today and the Francophones who regarded themselves foremost as les Canadiens, that the ability to speak different languages, including English, does not pose a threat to their Francophone identity. Francophone culture in Quebec will survive and thrive through its own self-determination, just as Francophone identity has survived in other parts of Canada without the need to oppress others through language laws.
When the British took control of Canada, the oppressive ideology of the Bourbons lived on through French Roman Catholic Churches in what officially became Lower Canada. But the creation of the province of Quebec under the British North America Act, 1867, which led to the Confederation of Canada, gave the relics of imperial France a new opportunity to re-manifest their control in North America.
Neo-Bourbons linked to the power and influence of the French Roman Catholic Church used the establishment of Quebec to embed themselves at all levels of the government. This included taking control of the education system, the National Assembly, public and police services, and the court system, using this infrastructure to preach to Francophones that Canada is the enemy.
The Neo-Bourbons used their power to re-write the history taught to Francophones in the newly created province of Quebec, crafting a narrative designed to complement the “quasi-sleeper cells” of imperial France. Operatives characterized the very values of rights, freedom, and multiculturalism embraced by the Francophone settlers of the New World as threats to Francophones that must be eliminated.
For the Neo-Bourbons, the quasi-authoritarian approach to government epitomized by Bill-96 seeks to repress both non-Francophones and Francophones alike through a system of propaganda juxtaposed with an ethos of divide, rule, and conquer. All of this sabotages Quebec’s development and the national unity of Canada.
Justin Trudeau has certainly not followed in his father’s footsteps regarding the need for vigilance against Quebec’s disregard for the rule of constitutional law as vital to national unity. This disregard is having a fundamentally dysfunctional impact on Canadian society as Quebec takes billions of dollars from the national treasury as transfer payments while thumbing its nose at civil rights universally respected by Western democracies. Allowing Quebec to play against the rules affirmed in Supreme Court of Canada decisions has manifested as profound inequity and regional alienation.
Carby-Samuels’s legal challenge recognizes the importance of language rights regarding access to justice, and how this denial in Quebec is part of an illegal system of language laws in Quebec that derogate from official bilingualism and multiculturalism.
During a Liberal convention in 1968, Pierre Elliot Trudeau spoke of an egalitarian ideal for Canada. It is this sentiment that the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms encapsulates, and it is these words that inspired Carby-Samuels’s legal challenge against Quebec’s reactionary leaders who seek to destroy the Canadian Dream through their disingenuous narratives. In the words of Pierre Elliot Trudeau,
For me this rich, beautiful and energetic country of ours can become the model of a just society in which every citizen will enjoy his fundamental rights, in which two great linguistic communities, and peoples of many cultures will live in harmony. C’est ça le Canada.
It remains to be seen if the Court of Appeal will honour its role by agreeing to a process of judicial review in such a vital constitutional matter or show itself to be an extension of the corrupt and xenophobic provincial government of Premier Francois Legault, which turns its back against the rule of constitutional law.
The denial of access to justice in Quebec against non-Francophones under a veil of propaganda and deception, bolstered by the current Justin Trudeau government’s outright refusal to intervene in defence of constitutional rights, connotes everything that is wrong about Canada today and puts it on the brink of dissolution.
There may still be hope for Canada to bring Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s vision of a just society to fruition if we can overcome the sins of his son and the treachery of Quebec’s elites. Carby-Samuels’s litigation efforts seek to rejuvenate Francophone identity in Canada as part of a unified bilingual and multicultural society. For this to be achieved, courts across Canada need to ensure to all Canadians that our constitutional framework truly does guarantee access to justice and due process based upon mutual respect.
Legault and his fellow relics among Quebec’s aristocracy regard the affirmation of Francophone identity through the oppression of others; we must put this way of thinking behind us as having no place in Canadian democracy.
The spirit of the Canadian maple leaf lives on today in the maple sugar shacks, or Cabanes-à-Sucre among Francophones, that welcome strangers of all nationalities to share a table and enjoy comfort foods of the maple syrup harvest. This coming together in the spirit of diversity and mutual respect seems to be beyond the realm of appreciation for François Legault and other so-called leaders of the National Assembly like Yves-François Blanchet. These politicians’ behaviour is akin to the fable of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” as their view of Quebec’s relationship to Canada is based upon fictions.
A central goal of Carby-Samuels’s litigation is to repeal Bill-96 and related language laws that derogate from access to justice. These policies must be declared as having “no force or effect” pursuant to Section 52 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Independent Canadian Commission on Civil and Human Rights invites interested parties to contact them through their HumanRightsCommission.ca website to get involved as interveners in a collective effort to reaffirm rights and freedoms in Quebec. The Commission seeks to promote the French language and culture without subverting the integrity of the progressive values of our Charter.
For further information:
The Independent Canadian Commission on Civil and Human Rights
Tel: (514) 712-7516