Que­bec bar seeks change to law-draft­ing process


Que­bec’s law so­ci­ety is head­ing to court to chal­lenge the way the provin­cial gov­ern­ment goes about draft­ing and pass­ing laws.

The Que­bec Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, along with the Mon­treal bar, said the cur­rent process is flawed and doesn’t re­spect the Cana­dian Con­sti­tu­tion, mak­ing the prov­ince’s laws and de­crees null and void.

In a mo­tion filed last Fri­day and that names na­tional assem­bly Speaker Jac­ques Chagnon and Jus­tice Min­is­ter Stephanie Vallee, the bars state the prob­lem is the laws are drafted in French and then trans­lated into English only af­ter the fact in­stead of si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

The bars ar­gue leg­is­la­tors there­fore never get to see the English ver­sion be­fore a bill is passed.

Ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Art. 133 of the 1867 Bri­tish North Amer­ica Act, while ei­ther lan­guage may be used in de­bates and plead­ings, laws must be adopted in both English and French.

The bars say the re­sult­ing leg­is­la­tion de­prives all Que­bec lit­i­gants of the right to the same ver­sion of the law in ac­cor­dance with con­sti­tu­tional norms.

In re­sponse, Valle told re­porters at an event in her rid­ing Mon­day the prov­ince in­tends to con­test the bars’ chal­lenge and their opin­ions on tardy trans­la­tions.

“I think it’s im­por­tant for cit­i­zens to know that laws are tabled, adopted and sanc­tioned in both of­fi­cial lan­guages,” Vallee said. “The Que­bec gov­ern­ment re­spects its con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tions and, ob­vi­ously, we do not at all share the opin­ions of the Que­bec bar.”

The bars gave the ex­am­ple of the adop­tion of a re­vi­sion of Que­bec’s Civil Code, which was sanc­tioned in Fe­bru­ary 2014. The English ver­sion wasn’t avail­able un­til a month later.

“The English ver­sion ... is not the work of the leg­is­la­tor, but rather the re­sult of the in­ter­pre­ta­tion made by the trans­la­tors of the na­tional assem­bly,” the bars wrote in their brief.

“It does not ex­press the will of the leg­is­la­tor, be­cause the leg­is­la­tor has never stud­ied the English ver­sion.”

As a re­sult, the bars noted there were three sub­se­quent re­vi­sions in May 2014, De­cem­ber 2015 and De­cem­ber 2016 to cor­rect mis­takes.

The bars said they have tried over the years to find an out-of­court res­o­lu­tion that en­sures Que­bec re­spects con­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tees.

That in­cluded a meet­ing last month, but the fil­ing noted there was no so­lu­tion.

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