Alberta not required to enact laws bilingually
OTTAWA— The Supreme Court of Canada says Alberta is not constitutionally required to enact its laws in both English and French.
In a 6-3 split decision, the court ruled that the arguments in favour of bilingual legislation brought forward by two appellants were inconsistent with the historical documents they relied on.
The Supreme Court ruling ends a legal fight that has spanned more than a decade, beginning when Alberta’s Gilles Caron received a traffic ticket in 2003.
Caron ended up merging his legal challenge with that of another driver, Pierre Boutet, who was also charged with a traffic offence.
The men argued legislative bilingualism extended to modern Alberta based on an assurance given by Parliament in 1867 and in the 1870 order which led to the creation of the province.
They won their case in provincial court, but that ruling was overturned on appeal.
The majority of the Supreme Court found Caron and Boutet’s position would require the court to believe the status of legislative bilingualism in Alberta was fundamentally misunderstood by “virtually everyone” involved in the Commons debate when the province was created.
“The legislative history post-1870 cannot support an inference regarding the 1870 order that is helpful to the appellants,” the court said.
“Furthermore, the provincial judge’s legal conclusion based on these arguments is in error.
“There is simply no evidence that this joint administration was part of the implementation of a constitutional guarantee. The evidence is, in fact, entirely to the contrary.”
Roger Lepage, a Saskatchewan lawyer who has handled Caron’s case from the start, said he was disappointed with the outcome.