THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

EVIDENCE


OTTAWA, Monday, October 15, 2018

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 5 p.m., in public, to examine Canadians’ views about modernizing the Official Languages Act, and in camera, to consider a draft report.

Senator René Cormier (Chair) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Chair: Good evening, honourable senators. I’m Senator René Cormier from New Brunswick. I’m pleased to be chairing the meeting today.

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages is continuing its five-part study on Canadians’ views about modernizing the Official Languages Act. Today the committee is starting the fourth part of its study, which concerns the justice sector.

We’re pleased to be joined by Daniel Boivin, President of the Fédération des associations de juristes d’expression française de common law.

[English]

We are pleased to also welcome, from the Association of English Speaking Jurists of Quebec, Mr. Michael Bergman, President and Co-Founder, as well as Mr. Casper Bloom, Vice President.

Before I give the floor to our witnesses, I will invite senators to introduce themselves.

[Translation]

Senator Poirier: Good evening. Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.

Senator Smith: Larry Smith from Quebec.

Senator Mégie: Marie-Françoise Mégie from Quebec.

Senator Maltais: Ghislain Maltais from Quebec.

Senator Gagné: Raymonde Gagné from Manitoba.

Senator McIntyre: Paul McIntyre from New Brunswick.

The Chair: Thank you. I want to welcome Senator Moncion from Ontario.

Mr. Boivin, the floor is yours.

Daniel Boivin, President, Fédération des associations de juristes d’expression française de common law inc.: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m pleased to be discussing this very interesting aspect of the modernization of the Official Languages Act.

The FAJEF is a federal organization that consists of seven provincial associations of French-speaking jurists. In terms of the associations in the FAJEF, the network is made up of about 1,800 jurists who serve approximately one million francophones across the country. The FAJEF’s mandate does not involve being the duty counsel for the Francophonie. Instead, its mandate is to ensure that francophones have access to justice. You’ll notice that the theme of my presentation is access to justice.

The FAJEF is also a member of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, or the FCFA. You’ll also notice that the FAJEF’s comments fully align with what the FCFA has submitted and with what the FCFA stated in the factum provided to you earlier this year.

The three main topics in the FCFA’s submissions are the following: first, the importance of having a real federal central agency to coordinate the implementation of the Official Languages Act; second, the integration of the “for” and “by” principle into the Official Languages Act to give official language minority communities a stake in the implementation; and lastly, the modernization of the monitoring and accountability mechanisms. The FAJEF fully endorses these three directions put forward by the FCFA.

Like a number of other sectors, the justice sector is experiencing a major issue with the Official Languages Act. The sector is having difficulty with implementing the objectives of the Official Languages Act, and therefore with the practical application and the possibility of forcing stakeholders subject to the Official Languages Act to proceed with the extremely laudable goals of the Official Languages Act. For both the justice sector and the other sectors, this constitutes a major issue.

Justice is a patchwork of many players. Of course, we’re talking about provincial, federal and constitutional jurisdictions for all legal issues. However, when it comes to access to justice, we must take into account the federal judiciary; the provincial judiciaries; the provincial departments; the federal Department of Justice; legal aid, which is different everywhere; law schools, which have somewhat different approaches; court administrators, who are the provincial administrators who often handle federal matters; the bar associations, which have different priorities; the police forces; the penitentiaries; and so on. This patchwork, which consists of a large number of stakeholders, will ensure that Canadians have access to justice.

Since the system is complex, the Official Languages Act must clearly identify a leader. We need someone who can create a strong central agency that can provide clear guidance on the administration of justice, to ensure that, first and foremost, all federal institutions will be able to respond in the same way. Even at the federal level, many stakeholders are involved in the justice system. Part VII requires an agency that can also provide guidance on respect for the language rights of citizens, which must be followed by all the other stakeholders that are not necessarily subject to the application of the Official Languages Act. That’s why the Official Languages Act can have an extremely significant impact on the justice sector. The lack of commitment by a key player could easily have a negative impact on access to justice.

You’ll be hearing from a number of witnesses from the justice sector. In the coming weeks, they’ll undoubtedly discuss several topics. However, I want to focus on two topics in particular. These topics are the right to be heard and understood at the Supreme Court of Canada without the help of interpretation, and, for individuals appearing before the court, the importance of having an effective remedy when the application of the Official Languages Act is challenged.

The FAJEF has long advocated for the right to be heard and understood at the Supreme Court of Canada without the help of interpretation. A number of players in the justice sector have already asserted this right. Here are a few key dates in the history of access to justice in French. In 1867, section 133 of the Constitution Act allowed the use of French in federal courts. This right was expanded a bit to include the right to be heard and understood without the help of interpretation in the federal courts, except the Supreme Court, in the 1988 amendments to the Official Languages Act. In 1990, the Criminal Code was amended to include the right to be heard and understood without the help of interpretation across the country. As a result, language rights and citizens’ access to justice in both languages are on the rise. Naturally, now that justice really speaks both languages in the country, the Supreme Court should be able to hear people who appear before the court without the help of interpretation.

Interpretation is different from direct interaction with judges. The French language is full of subtleties. Legal debates are full of subtleties, especially when it comes to the highly technical topics at the forefront of law that are addressed before the Supreme Court. Interpreters are high-level language experts. However, they need to grasp, on the fly, terminology that may be inaccurate, when viewed ex post facto in the broad context of the argument. In addition, a number of litigants who had the opportunity to be heard through interpretation, after presenting their cases to the Supreme Court or another court where interpretation was required, did not recognize their arguments. As a result, full justice can’t be ensured with interpretation.

A number of people have raised the issue of a barrier and have stated that an amendment must be made to the Official Languages Act with regard to the requirement to appoint Supreme Court judges who can speak both languages. This would make a constitutional amendment necessary. In the brief submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages in April 2017, the Barreau du Québec clearly stated that this type of constitutional amendment was unnecessary.

The constitutional expert Sébastien Grammond, who is now a Federal Court judge, agrees. The FAJEF also fully agrees. It contends that a constitutional amendment is unnecessary given that the composition of the Supreme Court is not being changed, and only the qualifications of the people who can sit on the court are being changed.

Lastly, when it comes to the importance of having an effective remedy under the Official Languages Act, I believe that there is no access to justice without access to an effective decision. There is also no access to justice or a right without a remedy associated with the implementation of that right.

The current system is not only slow, it lacks clarity and places a heavy burden on taxpayers when the Commissioner of Official Languages recommends a change that the federal government does not accept. The complaint system is slow. In addition, some complaints have been on the radar for a very long time, and they’re not close to obtaining a remedy.

The FAJEF completely agrees with the FCFA’s requests to create a tribunal that would quickly and easily review official languages issues and to give the Commissioner of Official Languages a more active role in cases deemed significant. The arguments are well presented in the FCFA’s brief, which, I repeat, we fully endorse.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Boivin.

[English]

Mr. Bergman and Mr. Bloom, the floor is yours.

Michael Bergman, President and Co-Founder, Association of English Speaking Jurists of Quebec: Thank you very much. It is an honour to be here and to share with you some thoughts on the modernization of the Official Languages Act, particularly under the heading of “access to justice.”

When I first looked at the agenda and the reference points of the committee on this issue, I was struck by the word “modernization.” Modernization does not mean improvement. Improvements always can be done. There are always modifications to make. Improvement, from our point of view, is retrospective — looking at the past, trying to remedy past problems, past injustices, past wrongs. That was the origin of this statute in particular.

If we are going to modernize, we need to be prospective. We need to look to the future. We need to anticipate future problems. In that respect, there are a number of issues that we’d like to raise before you.

First of all, the vitality of the English and French languages in Canada is a function of the ability of this wonderful country to sustain a French and English community. That means sustaining not just language but also identity and culture, which is nowhere raised in the statute.

If we’re going to sustain an identity, a culture and the language through which these items are communicated, we need the ability to have a central focus, as my colleague on my right said. However, I would go a step further. He used the word “central.” I would use the word “language czar.” We need someone who is in charge, who has the statutory authority not simply to investigate and make recommendations but also to enforce, to intervene.

The Commissioner of Official Languages should first, in terms of access to justice, be able by statute to intervene at his or her will into any litigation involving language, whether to represent those who cannot speak or to represent a point of view. That intervention is key, and there are innumerable cases coast to coast in that regard. He has to be able to exact a result, whether by giving directives or orders. The complaint process is fine, but why leave it to the judiciare to go to Federal Court or to another court? It should be the commissioner who is enforcing these rights.

“I want to have access to justice” is a popular cliché both in the English and French languages today. It is on the lips of everybody, and most jurists. Let’s talk about Quebec, because I recognize — and I think it is understandable — that much of the focus is on the minority francophone community outside of Quebec. It is sometimes easy to overlook, inadvertently, the English-speaking communities of Quebec. After all, the B&B commission — way back in 1963, if I’m not mistaken, or 1964 — said the English-speaking communities of Quebec are an extension of the majority English population of Canada. If that was ever true, it is certainly not true now.

What does access to justice look like in Quebec? I have been practising law in Quebec for 41 years. I’m also a licensed lawyer in Ontario and have had the privilege of practising also in Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston. The system in Quebec in my early days — when I had more hair — was, in my opinion, fairly bilingual. If you spoke to a court clerk, you could address them in either language. In those years there were very few what we call administrative law tribunals, so you had very few of the public servants or clerks that you had to deal with in any language because these tribunals did not exist.

Today there is a proliferation of these tribunals both at the federal and provincial levels. The problem is, of course, that at the provincial level, communicating with the clerks and the functionnaires, the servants at the counter, is almost impossible in English. It’s a courtesy. It’s a courtesy that’s extended if you’re lucky enough to get somebody who is functioning in the English language. Of course, most lawyers automatically speak in French, even if they are anglophone lawyers, as a courtesy but also of necessity.

The commissioner has to be empowered, even though this is a provincial area, to at least direct the federal government to use its money wisely when it invests in the justice system provincially to secure agreements that will foster the bilingual nature of the judicial system and access to justice. Without that, the system is slowly becoming unilingual French except for federally appointed judges. I might add that since the federal government appoints most of these Superior Court judges, perhaps there is an entry here to insist that because they are federally appointed, they should be bilingual and that the system itself should reflect that.

I must also comment in passing on Part VII, “Advancement of English and French.” Lovely words; it’s poetry. But unfortunately poetry does not necessarily give results in terms of access to justice. It may be lovely to hear a narration, but that will not fix our problems. In Canada we need to have a government and a Parliament committed to taking positive actions to enforce the official languages of Canada in every which way within federal authority. Otherwise, it’s just a simple wish list.

We can speak about many other areas such as making co-drafting part of the act and the bilingual nature of judicial decisions. One area I would like to close on regarding access to justice, which I think is extraordinarily important but is always forgotten, is that when we practise law coast to coast in Canada, we recognize quickly that the civil law of Quebec is almost unknown outside of Quebec. The judgments of the courts of Quebec, which are 98 per cent in the French language — understandably so — are never translated. The judgments of the Court of Appeal of Quebec, which give important considerations and pronouncements on the federal laws of Canada, are not translated. So a whole body of jurisprudence remains unknown. In British Columbia, you can never really have a decision going one way on a point that was already decided in Quebec, but the judge in British Columbia has no access to that decision and neither do the lawyers in that case.

It behooves the federal authorities in this act to pay to translate at least the Court of Appeal judgments of Quebec. If we are truly an officially bilingual country, bicultural, bijuridical, which is one of our great advantages in world systems, then we need to know what Quebec has to say in terms of interpretation of the law.

Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for the presentations. We’ll start our question period. I remind my colleagues that they have five minutes to ask a question and to receive the answer from our witnesses. I would appreciate keeping to that time frame.

Senators might ask a question in either French or English. You have an earpiece and we have interpreters if you need them.

[Translation]

Senator Poirier: The government recently announced its action plan for official languages 2018-2023. The plan includes a component that aims to improve access to justice through an investment of $2 million over two years to increase the capacity, and an action plan within the action plan for official languages to improve the bilingual capacity of the superior court judiciary. Will these measures address the needs? If not, what measures should the government take to improve the situation?

Mr. Boivin: Thank you, Senator Poirier. That’s an excellent question. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough to meet all the needs. The reason is that the funding hasn’t been updated from the old Dion plan. The Dion plan created a justice network in the provinces and boosted communities by giving them access to justice. When the core funding changed under the previous government, the Dion plan was severely curtailed. Many associations of jurists stopped running, whereas in the past associations worked by creating links with the rest of the community. Currently, volunteers are doing the bare minimum. To reinforce what the Dion plan was doing ten years ago, we would have needed more money. The arguments were put forward at that time. We’ll take the funding allocated by the government and we’ll work miracles with the money made available. Additional funding would certainly have been very beneficial.

Senator Poirier: Would amendments to the Official Languages Act be part of the solution? If so, how should the act be amended? If not, what measures should the federal government take?

Mr. Boivin: If the act were more effective, it would take less time and energy to ensure that the rights of francophones who appear before the courts are validated. A more effective act and quicker remedies that don’t require such a large monetary investment would certainly be a step in the right direction.

[English]

Senator Poirier: In your comments, you said that we need a government to commit to finding ways to enforce the official languages law. Can you give me suggestions of what you see as a possible way to enforce the law?

Mr. Bergman: One that I raised was the powers of the commissioner. The commissioner is key to the whole structure because the commissioner is effectively policing the whole act. Sure he reports to Parliament — and the Minister of Heritage has certain responsibilities — but it’s the commissioner to whom everybody is turning. Right now, the commissioner is more of a reporter, an investigator, a recommendation person but not an enforcer.

Senator Poirier: Do you feel he should have the ability to put sanctions in place?

Mr. Bergman: If necessary, yes.

[Translation]

Senator Gagné: Thank you for being here this evening. My question concerns the powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages. During a presentation a few months ago, Mr. Boileau, who is the French language services commissioner in Ontario, stated that we should avoid giving the Commissioner of Official Languages the role of judge and jury. We should provide the appropriate tools for the commissioner to play the mediator role and we shouldn’t give the commissioner sanction powers. Instead, we should consider creating an administrative tribunal where the commissioner could be called upon to act as an intervener. Mr. Bergman and Mr. Boivin, I want to hear your views on the matter.

[English]

Mr. Bergman: This is an extremely interesting concept and idea. It’s something we are advocating, but it’s a revolution in the commissioner’s role. We need to look at the commissioner as a different function. The commissioner is not a political appointee or should not be, although recently in the last number of months there have been issues surrounding the appointment of a new commissioner. The commissioner should be a person in charge of enforcement, of verification, of ordering, of directing, of information gathering, of statistical research, and of litigation wherever necessary. Unless that new, proposed prospective view of the commissioner’s role is taken, then all he’s doing is trying to fix a problem by moderation, by persuasion, by conversation and by mediation. That may work in some cases, but in a great many cases in our history that has not worked. Even at present, many cases are the product of the inability to mediate. Mediation is the flavour of the month amongst jurists in today’s world, but mediation doesn’t resolve these kinds of fundamental identity issues that go to fundamental rights.

Even though the Supreme Court of Canada has said that language rights are the product of a political compromise, the court has said that nevertheless they are as important as fundamental rights. We should not mix up, politically or in social discussion, what seems to be a social compromise, a political convention, which is different from fundamental rights. In this nation, language rights are fundamental rights. The minute we deem them to be uniquely political, the product of compromises, historic or otherwise, we are debasing them. We are saying that one day, in a future generation in 40 or 50 years, there could be a new political compromise. We don’t want that. We want to keep the officially bilingual nature of Canada not only extant but growing.

[Translation]

Senator Gagné: Thank you. So do you more or less agree with what your colleague said?

Mr. Boivin: The model put forward by the FCFA and FAJEF is the model proposed by commissioner Boileau. A tribunal and a commissioner would have investigative powers and would be able to intervene, but would remain neutral enough to be an agent of change rather than a police officer and judge at the same time.

Senator Gagné: Okay. The Official Languages Act is likely the legislation that federal institutions violate the most often. Can parallels be drawn with other legislation where this issue arose and where we were able to resolve it?

Mr. Boivin: It’s difficult to find quasi-constitutional legislation that has such a broad application and such strong aspirations, but lacks the measures that could give it teeth. I have trouble finding a strong enough parallel to provide an example of a model to follow. However, the solutions have been quite clearly identified by the stakeholders before you. We need more teeth, easier remedies for citizens and an organization to ensure that we don’t divide the application of the act and that the act will be applied by everyone.

Senator Mégie: My question pertains to Supreme Court justices. I know several studies about the health sector have shown that, when someone is in distress and wants to tell their doctor or health professional about it, they must be able to do so in their own language, and speak to a professional who understands that language.

I have a document showing that several bills to amend the Supreme Court Act have been defeated. They pertained to the bilingualism of judges. What is their basis? There are two proposals. One would require each individual to be bilingual so that each of the nine judges would be bilingual. The other would require five bilingual judges in order for there to be a quorum. Why did none of these bills succeed?

Mr. Boivin: Thank you. That is an excellent question, senator. We have seen great improvement in the bilingualism of common law jurists. At one time, it was hard to find francophones among the good jurists, francophones who could practise law at a level that would lead to a judgeship and the Supreme Court. That era is over. Look at the make-up of the court now. The government has been able to find extremely competent, bilingual judges who can hear cases from individuals in both official languages. We have made a lot of progress since that bill, and since the Official Languages Act was updated. Now is the time to require judges to be bilingual and to entrench in law the government’s practice, which could disappear when a new government is elected.

[English]

The Chair: Would you like to comment, Mr. Bergman?

Mr. Bergman: Yes. For the vast majority of Canadians, the subject of whether Supreme Court judges should be bilingual does not even register on their radar screen, for understandable reasons. It’s more of a symbolic problem, I think. If this country is dedicated to two official languages and access to justice in both official languages, then, of necessity, the highest court of the land has to be capable of honouring that system.

And yes, there is a problem, because now we’re going to have to exclude a number of very eminent, qualified jurists who couldn’t sit on the court for lack of bilingual skills. This is a difficult choice, but if we are creating in the world a unique country that peacefully coexists amongst its separate and individual parts, then the symbolism of its Supreme Court is paramount, whether the average Canadian cares about that or recognizes it. Most individual Canadians who are litigating in the Supreme Court are not going to come and plead by themselves. That would be rare and extraordinarily difficult.

So I don’t think this is about the practice; it’s about the symbolism. There, we have to make the compromise because our symbols in many ways are as important as our practices.

Senator McIntyre: Thank you for your fine presentations.

Mr. Bergman, you have raised the issue of Quebec decisions. What solutions could the federal government implement to ensure Quebec court decisions are read, understood and cited in the decisions handed down in the other provinces? Conversely, how could it ensure that decisions from other provinces are read, understood and cited in judgments in Quebec?

Mr. Bergman: A simple but perhaps costly — I’m not an accountant, so I can’t budget this out. The federal government should not wait for the provinces to translate decisions. It’s not happening. There is a process in Quebec where you can get a judgment translated, but they do about 36 to 38 a year. It takes many, many months. By the time you have the English version — because it’s usually in French, of course — it doesn’t really do any good.

The federal government, under the act, if it’s going to be truly modernized, should budget that every Court of Appeal judgment within a reasonable delay is translated into the other official language. That’s the road forward. This way, common law lawyers can know about the excellent decisions from our civil law bench, Court of Appeal and vice versa.

Practically, most of the judges of the Quebec Court of Appeal are fluently bilingual or have a functionality in English where they can read the common law decisions. The problem is that lawyers who are not bilingual in Quebec cannot refer to them and vice versa, as I have already said.

As per my answer to the Supreme Court — and this is more than symbolic — we have to do what we have to do and it costs the money that it costs. This is creating a pan-Canadian bijuridical system whereby the lawyers who are usually in the avant-garde of the evolution of the law have access to all the important decisions, at least to the Court of Appeal, of each province.

[Translation]

Senator McIntyre: To date, we have heard various proposals for updating the Official Languages Act that involve legislation and justice. These proposals have pertained primarily to the preamble and to Parts II, III, VII and X of the act. Do you think we should entrench the principles recognized by jurisprudence in the preamble?

Mr. Boivin: That would be helpful. The preamble is useful for the interpretation of the act. In terms of priorities, there are more important problems to address than that, but greater clarity on how the act can be interpreted would definitely be very useful in the future. I do hope, however, that the courts have examined the Official Languages Act sufficiently to fully understand its quasi-constitutional scope.

Senator McIntyre: You mentioned Part VII. One of the proposals we received is to explicitly include the duty to help the provinces and territories provide access to the entire justice system in both official languages. Do you agree with that?

Mr. Boivin: Entirely. I was referring to the patchwork of justice. That kind of provision could make the federal government a leader in ensuring that all stakeholders in the justice system, provincial and federal stakeholders, are moving in the same direction.

[English]

Senator McIntyre: Mr. Bergman and Mr. Bloom, are you in agreement that the Official Languages Act should codify the principles recognized in case law?

Casper Bloom, Vice President, Association of English Speaking Jurists of Quebec: Yes.

Senator McIntyre: What principles from case law should be codified?

Mr. Bergman: The first principle is that the federal government has an obligation and the federal Parliament has a positive obligation to support and enhance the official languages of Canada.

The second principle in case law is the right to receive a claim in damages if these principles are violated.

The third is that the citizen is the core, the centre. The legislation is about identity and how that identity will be sustained in a litigious environment.

I would say those three right off the bat.

[Translation]

Senator Maltais: Thank you very much for your testimony, gentlemen. I will begin with Mr. Bergman. As you know, our big country of Canada was founded not on political compromises, but on the rule of law. That is the foundation and nothing can change that.

Time passed and we celebrated our 150th birthday, and of course some compromises were made. With respect to the official languages, you are completely right in saying that, even if we had the best act in Canada, it would have no teeth without the political will to implement it since the vast majority of cases, as Senator Gagné pointed out, come from the federal government or parts of it.

I have one last quick question. You talked about the translation of decisions. My background is in insurance, and you know that we use an international language in that field. I cannot imagine that a decision issued in Quebec in an insurance case, which is the same as in British Columbia, would not be translated into English or vice-versa, because we absolutely need precedents since international law is involved. I cannot wrap my mind around that. As a practising lawyer, have you seen such cases?

[English]

Mr. Bergman: I see this every day. Let’s take the example of insurance. I take it that in your past, you have been an expert in reading insurance policies. You know they are difficult to read sometimes. But they’re standard policies. They’re standard, for the most part, across the country. If you have a standard policy, there should be one interpretation. The Court of Appeal of Quebec says it’s X and the court of Alberta says it’s Y, but it’s the same words. The only difference is one policy was written in French and one case was decided in the French language. Another case was written in English and decided in English. What’s wrong with this picture?

But we don’t have that ability. It’s not that there isn’t goodwill to apply the law consistently coast to coast. It’s that people don’t have the tools to understand it, because unfortunately we’re not a perfectly bilingual country. We need to give jurists the tools to understand one another, and that’s through interpreting and translating judgments.

[Translation]

Senator Maltais: You are right. Right now, we are seeing things in Canada that we have never seen before because of storms and tornados. You had some in Eastern Canada and in British Columbia in the West.

We know that the rider in an insurance contract is fundamental. I hope the decisions issued for members of the public in British Columbia and Saskatchewan are the same as those in Gatineau a few weeks ago. At some point — and I don’t know if this request has already been made to the Supreme Court — it is essential for provincial court decisions to be automatically translated into the other language as reference material. I don’t know.

[English]

Mr. Bergman: Senator, the problem is that very few cases go to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court could rule on the matter and identify the problem, but the Supreme Court only hears about 100 cases a year and receives about 3,000 or 4,000 applications for permission to appeal. Most cases are decided by the Superior Court or Court of Appeal of a province, and they are translated. So, yes, when you talk about the tornadoes, you can have different results in different places because of ignorance.

[Translation]

Senator Maltais: Don’t you think the minister of justice should order that?

[English]

Mr. Bergman: Ideally it should be a policy of a government. It should be a policy of Parliament. But I’m saying put it in this statute. Put in the statute that the Parliament of Canada has a duty to allocate funds to translate at least the significant judgments of the Courts of Appeal of every province of this country. We do it already for the Supreme Court and for the Federal Court of Appeal, and for the Federal Court. It is not such a leap. It’s not about hiring another building load of interpreters and translators. There are the beginnings of the nucleus to do this, and it has been going on at the federal level for decades. Just extend it.

[Translation]

Senator Moncion: I appreciate what you said. A few people smiled at me though because you used words that we do not hear often here, such as “language czar”.

[English]

I found that one really nice. And “courtesy” was one that you used, and the one about being prospective versus retrospective.

[Translation]

I would like to hear what you think, in your forward-looking approach, in terms of appointing an official languages commissioner with a prospective approach, because you talked about —

[English]

— someone in charge to invest, to enforce, to intervene, and someone who can exact a recourse and allocate resources. I’d like to hear your ideas on the process and what kind of person we should be looking for, if we are going that route.

Mr. Bergman: We have to understand, senator, that when the Official Languages Act was created, the environment was radically different than it is today. Over the years, the amendments, such as they are, were adopted in a different environment than today.

Today when I say we need to be prospective and we need an enforcer, we need the kind of person who has the legal skills; a complete grasp of the language problem coast to coast; doesn’t need to learn on the job, and many commissioners do need to learn on the job, whether they are from the English community in Quebec or from the francophone community in the rest of the country; who maybe have a background in language law cases or language law policy; and who are invited to submit their applications, much as your more current colleagues, when they apply to be a senator, now self-nominate, or a Supreme Court judge. They nominate themselves and say why they should be in this role and how they want to manage that role.

If you use these criteria, you’re fundamentally creating a very different institution and seeking a very different person than in the past. You’re also seeking somebody who is completely above or not part of the political fray, somebody who is there to uphold fundamental principles that undergird the existence of this country and are part of its constitutional order, whether that constitutional order is written or, as the Supreme Court says, unwritten — the unwritten constitutional principles.

That’s the kind of person I would be looking at, but before you can hire that person — and this is not a criticism of the current officeholder in any way, shape or form — you will have to remake the institution. That’s the first policy issue and the first legislative issue that you need to grapple with. Then we can look at the kind of person you need to carry that new institution forward.

Maybe you also need a different name. I’m not suggesting a name, but maybe you need to call him or her something other than commissioner.

Senator Moncion: That would be unique. It would probably be the only law in Canada where you have someone who is named to enforce it.

Mr. Bergman: Don’t forget that this law is unique in Canada, as Mr. Boivin said a moment ago. It doesn’t exist anywhere else. We created something that is different and that suits our country’s values, identity and needs.

Senator Moncion: Thank you.

[Translation]

The Chair: I have two questions. Mr. Boivin, on April 6, 2017, you appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages as part of its study. At that meeting, you talked about the participation of members of linguistic minority communities in the famous consultative committee as regards superior court appointments. Can you elaborate on that and tell us what has been done since then to ensure that official language communities participate, and tell us why it is important, in this space, to have someone who represents OLMCs?

Mr. Boivin: The committees that review appointments for federal judicial positions are the eyes and ears of the community that will be served for many years by the appointed judges. If we do not have the eyes and ears of the minority community, there could be, on the one hand, outstanding candidates who are not identified and, on the other hand, community needs that are not identified. Having committees, the intelligence of a committee in the community, ensures that the right people are in place.

The Chair: Thank you. We have heard from a number of witnesses about language rights when it comes to divorce. Should those rights be explained in the Official Languages Act or the Divorce Act? Are there other areas of law in which the federal government should take action to clarify the language obligations associated with those areas?

Mr. Boivin: In two main areas across the country, there is still no guarantee that a dispute will be handled in both official languages. The problem has been solved for the criminal justice system. As for the Divorce Act, this is not yet possible and the matter must be settled once and for all. I will soon appear before parliamentarians to encourage them to amend the Divorce Act. The same is true for the Bankruptcy Act. Two mechanisms are possible. We could amend the two acts through the Official Languages Act just as was done for the Criminal Code. We could also go directly to the statutes. Parliament’s openness to amending the Divorce Act is certainly an opportunity that FAJEF will seize.

[English]

The Chair: Mr. Bergman, do you have a comment concerning that?

Mr. Bergman: I want to speak to the issue of the Divorce Act because there is a statistic that is not often recognized. In Quebec, 45 per cent of divorce litigants represent themselves. They do not have lawyers. It has grown to the point that even the magistrature has difficulty managing this because these people don’t always have the skills to really represent themselves, more so when there are language issues.

Imagine that you have two anglophone litigants seeking a divorce. The judge is bilingual, but only bilingual to the point of comprehension to speak, not to write. So after a long contested hearing, the result is a judgment in writing, in French. But you’re an anglophone. Maybe you can read the French, maybe you can’t. Maybe you can understand part of it, maybe you can’t. You’re emotional. This is the most emotional time in your life, and yet you don’t have a document that you can look at and say that this is the result, win or lose, good or bad. If you are representing yourself, you have no one to explain it to you. It’s important to recognize that more and more, in certain areas of law — it’s true also in bankruptcy, but divorce in particular — people self-represent.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

[Translation]

Senator Gagné: The Official Languages Act has finally established a framework for judicial and legislative bilingualism objectives. We also want to support the development and vitality of the francophone and anglophone minority communities. How do we ensure consistency between the provisions on access to justice, on everything related to federal institutions, and the members of a community who want to continue to live in their mother tongue? What changes are needed to ensure this consistency, so that Part VII does not become just some pretty words?

Mr. Boivin: We need an agency that has a clear mandate to implement all those principles instead of dividing the mission among several agencies. If the central agency could have this mandate and could not, as is now the case, delegate the mandate to other agencies, we would have a clear message that could be delivered to the public more effectively.

Senator Gagné: Other than a central agency, do we need anything else?

Mr. Boivin: Clearly, we need a commissioner with a clear mandate to communicate, able to deliver the agency’s message and direct Canadians to the legislation. We must contribute, as leaders, to developing justice, the fabric, the patchwork quilt of justice, so that other stakeholders can understand the same message. Part VII gives us that tool. Part VII must still be brought to life. If it cannot be implemented or if the government cannot be forced to go to the communities to deliver this message, it will be difficult to share it with individuals.

Senator Gagné: Providing communities with the proper tools is often done through the provinces, municipalities and transfers of funds. Are there other ways to ensure consistency between the three?

Mr. Boivin: In the justice sector, there are several examples of federal transfers that create focal points in communities. We just have to think of the access to justice centres, which are creations of the official languages access program. Those centres allow a host of other stakeholders to connect with those structures to have access to all sorts of areas.

Although this is not the primary purpose of those centres, they are now extraordinary tools for new Canadians. This is a good example of a federally funded project implemented in a province and bearing fruit.

[English]

Mr. Bergman: If you like, I could add a word.

The Chair: If you have a comment, you are welcome to express it.

Mr. Bergman: For the average person and for community groups, it’s about knowledge. Most people don’t know. There is not enough publicity, number one.

Two, as I alluded to earlier, when the federal government gives money to the province, there should be conditions. There should be strings attached that make a difference.

I’ll give you an example. Justice Canada does give money to Justice Quebec. The English versions of Quebec laws are terrible translations of the French. Most lawyers don’t bother with the English because there are so many mistakes, and this has been noted by the courts. Six or eight months ago, the Quebec bar began a lawsuit over this, which was suspended pending the election. Would it make a difference if the federal government said, “We are going to give you money and we want it to be devoted to certain things like better translation of your laws so at least the English makes sense”?

In 1994, my colleague Casper Bloom put 20 years into fixing the terrible translation of the Civil Code of Quebec. His committee found 5,000 mistakes and they only corrected about 3,500 of them, roughly, last year or two years ago.

The classic one was that corporations “act through their organs.” Now, of course, in French it says, “Les personnes morales agissent par leurs organes .” It’s not the same thing. What is happening here? Is this some sort of, shall we say, lewd comment on what corporations really do? But it literally said that.

In one way, it makes the legislature of Quebec a laughing stock, but nobody looks at these things. It took 20 years to fix 5,000 mistakes. Do you know how many laws there are in Quebec with the same problems? The new Code of Civil Procedure, which are the rules of court, also had bad translations or incorrect terminology. It’s never ending. If we are truly dedicated to having a statute, then at least the federal government should say to Quebec, or any province, “If you are going to have translated laws or are constitutionally obligated to do that, do it the right way. We are giving you money we want you to use it in that way.”

[Translation]

Senator Poirier: Mr. Boivin, in your presentation, you said that we need a clear leader and that we need to know who that leader is. In your opinion, who should be the leader for official languages?

You also mentioned that there was a danger in not having a leader, which could have a negative impact. Can you give us examples of negative results if we have no leader for official languages?

Mr. Boivin: Let me refer you to the position of the FCFA that, in its brief, which is endorsed by the FAJEF, states that we need a leader who is able to force those around the table to move forward.

For example, if the Treasury Board were the enforcement agency and, in the case of a transfer of funds, it could say: “You’re not doing your job in this area, you’re not going to get the money”, things would move a little faster. This is the position being put forward.

One of the problems we are now seeing is that the leader can delegate the authority to other agencies, so that a whole host of people can make decisions about the Official Languages Act. This makes it less likely for one person to be responsible for reporting on what is happening.

In a context where one agency has a clear mandate to do so, the report to Parliament on the operation of the official languages provisions of the act will be much clearer, and the person responsible for the administration or lack thereof will be much more easily identifiable.

Senator Poirier: In your opinion, should the responsible agency be the Treasury Board?

Mr. Boivin: Yes, that is the position of the FCFA.

Senator Poirier: Thank you.

The Chair: We hear a lot about a central agency. Do you think that Justice Canada’s responsibilities should also be specified in the legislation?

Mr. Boivin: For the administration of certain aspects, it would be very useful to have some clarification in the legislation. For example, specifying that Justice Canada must ensure the language ability of judges would be extremely useful. We would have someone with a clear mandate in the legislation, and the community would have an easily identifiable person who could be held accountable.

[English]

Mr. Bergman: If I could add something, with your permission, no matter how much I think I understand the connections between various players, between the various ministers, I don’t know who is in charge. Who is in charge? Is it Heritage? Is it Treasury Board? Is it the commissioner? Is it somebody else? If I’m not mistaken, I think that in the cabinet shuffle the roles were bifurcated, divided up. I don’t see anywhere in the statute that says those roles can be divided. So who is in charge? I agree with my colleague, Daniel Boivin.

The Chair: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your presentations. They were very useful and inspiring.

[Translation]

We are now pleased to welcome Louis Beaudoin, President, Universal Linguistic Services. Welcome, Mr. Beaudoin. The floor is yours.

Louis Beaudoin, President, Universal Linguistic Services: Thank you for the invitation. It is truly a privilege to be able to talk about a topic about which I am passionate and that gets my blood pumping. Earlier, I had to stop myself from not getting up and yelling “hear, hear” at certain comments. I was excited. Thank you for this opportunity.

I’m a translator and a lawyer. I did five years of civil law and I also studied common law. I’m a freelance jurist-translator and jurilinguist and I train judges, translators and lawyers. The words of the law are my passion.

The subject is close to my heart, because I have come to examine the subject as I give lectures and travel around the world. Canada is a model for co-drafting. This is actually the title of my presentation or brief, “Judicial Bilingualism and Linguistic Bilingualism—A Variable Geometry Model.” For historical or political reasons or because of a lack of political will, we see that judicial bilingualism and legislative bilingualism are not given the same importance in Canada.

The 1982 Charter enshrined the equality of languages and, in the 1960s and 1970s, the French version of the laws received a real boost. At that time, we adopted a co-drafting model for legislation that is the envy of the world. I have heard it praised a lot. In short, this model simply means that federal laws are drafted by an anglophone and a francophone from each tradition and language to create a version in both languages that best reflects the culture of both.

It’s a whole different story when it comes to judgments. There is an imbalance, an inequality of treatment. Even in the Supreme Court, this is not easy. The two versions do not have the same value or authority. There is the original version and the translated version. I do not question the quality of the translation, but it is still a translation, which does not hold the same authority or value. So, even for the Supreme Court of Canada, we still have the original and the translation, either in French or English. So, as Professor Karen McLaren explains :

The current solution to the decisions from some tribunals is to treat the translation as though there was one main official language, the language the judgments are written in, and an obligation to accommodate with respect to the use of the other official language, the language to which these decisions are translated.

What is the use of translating a judgment if the two versions do not hold equal value and authority? How can we speak of equality if one of the languages is disadvantaged when it comes to choosing the version of a judicial decision? I would like to quote Michel Bastarache, who appeared before you two weeks ago, with respect to common law precedents. Common law is based on precedents. Mr. Bastarache explained as follows:

A judicial decision, once rendered, is part of the law. This is particularly true of common law matters. This fact emphasizes once again that it is essential to recognize that there are important reasons to consider judgments as fully bilingual documents, both of which hold authority.

He said that in 2009; he was expressing a wish.

In reality, there is inequality. On the one hand, there is the treatment of laws, of which the English and French versions have the same authority and value, and on the other hand, there are decisions and judgments that do not have the same value or official recognition. What are the consequences? We talked about that earlier. When there is no political will at the provincial or even federal level, the necessary funding and importance are not provided.

I thought Mr. Bergman’s comments were wonderful. He said, word for word, what I wanted to say. We are seeing the development of two parallel bodies of jurisprudence, which really do correspond to Canada’s two solitudes. We have civil law, which is increasingly defined only in French, and common law, which is practically expressed in English only. In Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, the bilingual laws are very well drafted. There is a political will. Incredible progress has been made over the past 30 years. We have robust bilingual legislation, but the courts have not followed suit. There has been no logical sequence. That’s a major gap.

By way of background, let me give you three examples : Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. In Ontario, very few decisions are rendered in French or translated into French. The Centre for Translation at the University of Ottawa translates some decisions at the request of the parties. Requests are hand-picked. In Manitoba, even though legislative bilingualism is more formal, more entrenched and better recognized, it is difficult to find decisions in French. It’s basically an obstacle course; there are very few of them. In Quebec — I thought what Mr. Bergman said was extraordinary — it’s really incredible. The courts do not translate judgments and they are published only in French in the vast majority of cases — or sometimes even in English — and judges have no obligation to render or write their judgments in the language of the parties. In some cases, the trial was conducted in French, the parties were francophone, but the judge wrote the decision in English. In other cases, the opposite is true, as we heard earlier. There is no legal obligation to render or write the decision in the language of the parties.

The problem we are facing is that the parties have the right to address the judge in their language, to have a trial in their language, but cannot require a decision to be rendered in their language. Earlier, we saw the example of a divorce decision that was not rendered in the language of the parties. Statistics for 2017 show that only 18 cases in the Court of Appeal of Quebec were translated from French to English. The problem with parallel jurisprudence is that important decisions rendered in Quebec go completely unnoticed even though they may impact the rest of Canada. This is no theoretical position. It has happened a number of times. I provide examples in my brief. So, lawyers pull their hair out. They’re looking for the English version, but it doesn’t exist. I will quote from a decision of the Court of Appeal of Quebec dated October 20, 2017. This is what the lawyer said :

[English]

This interesting case, now on its way to the Supreme Court, came to my attention through Supreme Advocacy and their newsletter. They summarize its key issue: “Can lawyers be liable for professional referrals.” Put that briefly, that seems pretty scary, and, equally scary, the Quebec Court of Appeal’s answer was “yes.” I looked back at the appeal judgment to see what was going on.

[Translation]

This is what I wanted to draw your attention to :

[English]

I should note that I am not bilingual, I read and interpreted the Quebec Court of Appeal decision through the assistance of Google Chrome machine translation [...]

[Translation]

Not only is the lawyer not bothered by the fact that there is no translation, but he does not hesitate to use Google Translate. He marvels at the Google Translate result : a translation that makes no sense. And I quote :

[English]

In an excellent metaphor for causation, the Court of Appeal described the doomed investments as “inextricably linked in a gear where the appellants were trained by Mr. Salomon’s faults”. [sic]

[Translation]

The original French version was actually: “Ces investissements s’inscrivent de manière indissociable dans un engrenage où les appelantes ont été entraînées par les fautes de Me Salomon”. So the two do not correspond.

Another problem has been identified: access to justice. Given that few common law decisions are rendered in French in provinces other than Quebec, and given that few civil law judgments are translated into English in Canada, Canadians’ access to justice in their own language is partial and limited. People have the right to trial in their language. The fact that judges have no obligation to render their decisions in the language of the person on trial, and that courts have no obligation to publish their judgments in both official languages is, in my view, absurd in a country that calls itself a model of bilingualism and bijuralism.

I find it astonishing — and perhaps I am going a little further than what you have heard — that we are still debating the need for Supreme Court justices to be bilingual. You may find this surprising, but it has nothing to do with politics and language. It is simply in their job description. A judge’s role is to interpret the law. They interpret the law and apply it to the case before them. No one talks about this and I do not know why. The subject is taboo, but judges have to keep in mind the principles involved in interpreting the law. A number of works on the subject have been published in Canada, such as Côté and Beaupré. One of the basic principles of interpreting the laws is the need to deal with both versions, French and English. Imagine a unilingual English judge on the Supreme Court who cannot read the French version. That is unacceptable because it is in the job description. It is as if you hired a workman who cannot do half of the job. It has nothing to do with language or politics. It has to do with the ability to do the job. Judges have to be able to compare English and French in order to grasp the subtleties.

So I find that extraordinary. Personally, I would not have gone that far, but, if it were possible to propose that the federal government … Because it is true, public opinion at provincial level, including in Quebec, is not set up to ensure bilingualism. So let’s be consistent. Do we really want a bilingual and bijural country, or do we want two systems that drift along parallel to each other? If not, we have to change course. In New Brunswick, they have solid laws that work well. The second stage would be to at least have provincial court of appeal judgments in French and English. In addition, Supreme Court justices should be required to master both languages before they are appointed. In broad terms, those are my recommendations and my views. I can now answer your questions.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Beaudoin. Given the time we have, you will be able to continue during the period for questions.

Senator Poirier: Thank you for coming, Mr. Beaudoin. In your brief, you recommend that the Official Languages Act should require all decisions of the Federal Court of Appeal to be published simultaneously in both official languages and that decisions of other federal courts be published within a reasonable time. I have one question about that: in your opinion, what would a reasonable time be? Are you not afraid that a suggestion such as a reasonable time might be treated just the same as the positive measures in Part VII?

Mr. Beaudoin: I confess that I have left that idea flexible because requiring the judgments of the Federal Court of Appeal to be translated into both languages simultaneously — and I would add other provincial courts — would be such a huge step that it would not be realistic to require the simultaneous publication of all judgments. So, when I say a reasonable time, what I am doing is leaving the issue pending by mentioning the principle and basically leaving it to someone else to provide the specifics. I admit that I lacked the courage or the precision, and I was unable to take the idea any further.

Senator Poirier: What is the approach of other countries in rendering decisions in two official languages, in terms of a timeline? Can we learn from them as a way to solving the problem?

Mr. Beaudoin: That is a good question. The only examples that come to my mind are the European Court of Justice, the major institutions in Europe, or the international courts. Those cases are a little strange in that the first language is French, so all the judges write their judgments in French, after which it is translated into other languages. However, I cannot speak from any position of knowledge because I am not familiar with all the mechanisms. For what it is worth, I think that the publication is done simultaneously in all the official languages. That is a bit like the Supreme Court, although the two versions do not have the same status. They do in fact have the same status, but there is no official statement to that effect. In actual fact, Supreme Court decisions are published simultaneously; it is not like the English is published first and the French comes two weeks later. The two versions are published at the same time. So that is the kind of model I am suggesting for the Federal Court of Appeal, that the court be treated the same, because it is very important too.

Senator McIntyre: Mr. Beaudoin, my congratulations for your fine, 35-year career as a legal translator and jurilinguist.

You are right. There is a marked imbalance between legislated bilingualism and legal bilingualism. With legal bilingualism, it is high time to recognize that the translated versions of judgments have equal authority. The best way to do that is to amend the Official Languages Act. Moreover, as you have mentioned, the recognition that the English and French versions have equal authority is already enshrined in both federal and New Brunswick legislation.

Mr. Beaudoin: Absolutely.

Senator McIntyre: Here is what I asked the first group of witnesses: should the principles recognized in the case law be codified in the Official Languages Act?

Let me ask you: should the principles of bilingualism be codified in the Official Languages Act?

Mr. Beaudoin: Thank you for that question. It is one that I have not really considered. I would say yes, if codifying the principles is to guide judges in interpreting the act and giving it more strength and more clout. That is the idea, the goal, I feel. If those principles are enshrined in the act, at that point, when the judges are hearing a case, they have to take them into consideration even more, as will any ombudsman or commissioner who may be appointed.

In the first analysis, therefore, I would say yes, because it provides more value and more gravitas. It would serve to set in stone the principles that the Supreme Court has espoused through the years. I would tend towards what was suggested earlier as a effective mechanism, putting everything in the hands of a single person and recognizing the equal value of both versions. That is certainly a step in the right direction.

Senator McIntyre: Yes, because the first group of witnesses agreed with entrenching the principles recognized in the case law in the Official Languages Act.

Mr. Beaudoin: Absolutely, yes.

Senator Gagné: I am also going to add my voice to the comments of my colleague, Senator McIntyre.

You brief is very well constructed. It is very clear, and your thoughts will give us food for thought in this area. You have laid out the problems surrounding the equality of the official languages very well. Your brief also mentioned that translating the decisions of the federal courts to small independent translation companies, under the direction of the CAS.

Mr. Beaudoin: Actually, it is the Judicial Support Service: I was mistaken.

Senator Gagné: Okay. I would like to go back to the importance of also being able to handle the work. We need specialist translators. For universities, my impression is — and I am in a position to say this because I was the head of a francophone university in Manitoba — that it is difficult to recruit students to register in programs unless there is support for attracting people who already are professionals in other areas to complement the basic training. How do we go about building that knowledge and supporting the work that needs to be done in translation?

Mr. Beaudoin: There are certain key markers. As you said, there must be recognition that it is specialized work. Translating judgments and legislation is a specialized job. It cannot be given to people without legal training or people without the knowledge, the sensitivity and the rigour needed to do the work.

There are jurilinguists without legal training. They have to have the necessary rigour, interest or training. The problem that has arisen in recent years is that translating judgments has been given over to two or three large companies that have no legal translators or jurilinguists. That was done to cut costs. So we now have a serious problem of terminology and of quality.

At the moment, McGill has a program to train students in legal translation. Beginners, students, can be trained. I feel that it is a matter of sensitivity, of will. What we have to avoid is wanting to get the lowest cost for the highest volume of translation. Those are mistakes that we must not make. When you have to start everything over again, the costs are astronomical.

All formulas are good. I have worked with universities with excellent translators because the universities have people who are sensitive to the issues. So all formulas are good, except, of course, giving the work to those who are not legal specialists, or to huge companies that are only about volume.

It is a bit like when I go to conferences in the United States. Sometimes, I am shocked by the fact that translation is seen as a business. But we are not at that point. With our passion for bijuralism and bilingualism that are rooted in Canadian values, there has to be quality.

Senator Moncion: I echo my colleague’s comments about the quality of your brief.

Mr. Beaudoin: Thank you.

Senator Moncion: My question is about common law and civil law. To what extent do Canadians recognize the two systems and the reciprocity between them? Perhaps this is a personal impression, but what I often see is that what happens in Quebec stays in Quebec and what happens in common law in the rest of Canada stays in the rest of Canada. Can you tell me about that reciprocity?

Mr. Beaudoin: The law in Quebec is a hybrid. Some areas are purely civil law and some areas are part of common law, such as commercial and criminal law. That is why, when I was talking about the judgments made in Quebec, in criminal law, for example, it is a real shame that they go unnoticed, because they form Quebec’s common law, which stays sealed off.

In reality, the law in Quebec is not nicely chopped up like that. There are private matters, property matters and other things, but there is also public law, bankruptcy, criminal law; that is all Canada-wide.

Senator Moncion: Is it recognized?

Mr. Beaudoin: Yes, it is applied uniformly, in the same way everywhere.

Senator Moncion: No, I understand how it is applied, but is it recognized everywhere in Canada?

Mr. Beaudoin: That is the problem that comes up. No, it is not recognized, because there is just no translation, no access. It is a problem to access the version in the other languages, as in the case I mentioned earlier, where the lawyer was desperate and used Google Translate to understand an important judgment by the Court of Appeal of Quebec on legal persons, meaning companies.

Okay, maybe some legislation is different: the Companies Act in Quebec is not the same as in Ontario, but that is a good example. So, that lawyer absolutely wanted to read the judgment and he probably interpreted it wrongly, or he was working from a bad translation. My feeling is that, if there were access to appeal court decisions all over Canada, it would solve a lot of problems.

Senator Mégie: Thank you, Mr. Beaudoin. I have discovered a new speciality that I knew nothing about. In some bills, from time to time, we try to find what is not working and to figure out why the bill was translated as it was. To follow on from Senator Moncion’s question, you said that, if you use Google for your translation, you will certainly get an absurd translation.

Mr. Beaudoin: Not necessarily, but there are major risks, especially in law.

Senator Mégie: With negative consequences for the people experiencing them. With the evolution of the new technology, where most things are posted in English, what may well happen?

Mr. Beaudoin: What do you mean?

Senator Mégie: Are translated judgments published online?

Mr. Beaudoin: Good question. Yes, but not all of them. There was a court case because the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada abandoned its obligations by stating that it would not translate all its decisions in French and that it would translate only what it posted online.

Basically, not everything is published, certainly in the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. However, pretty much everything has to be accessible online.

Senator Mégie: It has to be a good translation if it can be accessed.

Mr. Beaudoin: Yes, and that is not always the case.

Senator Mégie: Do a lot of people who do this work have your specialized training?

Mr. Beaudoin: Some do, of course. The interest really develops over time. Yes, there are some specialists.

Senator Mégie: Perhaps that will help.

Mr. Beaudoin: Yes, certainly.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Beaudoin. I would also like to highlight the quality of your brief and the precision of your comments. Thank you very much. We are going to suspend the session and continue it in camera in a few moments.

(The committee continued in camera.)