Constitution Act of 1867 | There is no official trace of the French language yet

(Ottawa) Trudeau’s government rules out the idea of ​​benefiting from its broad reforms to the system Official Languages ​​Law To speed up the translation of 22 texts of the Canadian Constitution available in English only.

Posted at 12:00 AM

Joel Dennis Belavance

Joel Dennis Belavance

These texts were not formally translated and incorporated into the country’s Basic Law, even if the Ministry of Justice pledged to do so as soon as possible in … 1982, when the Constitution was repatriated.

The result: 40 years later, only the English version of Constitution Act of 1867 The force of law in the courts.

PHOTO PATRICK DOYLE, Canadian Press Archives

Jennette Petitbas Taylor, Minister of Official Languages

The Minister for Official Languages, Jennette Petitbas Taylor, confirmed that this file falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice and that Bill C-13 aims to modernize Official Languages ​​LawWhich must be adopted by the end of the course, is not an appropriate way to achieve this.

Minister Petitbas Taylor’s press secretary, Marianne Blondin, said in a statement to Journalism.

“The duty to prepare and adopt a French version of constitutional laws that are not yet official in this language has been the subject of much work over the years by the Canadian Ministry of Justice. “We recognize that translation of texts is essential and that is why efforts are being made to give the French version an official status,” she added.

Necessary constitutional amendment

Currently, the French version of Constitution Act of 1867 It is only a translation given for documentary purposes. Reason: The official version of this Act has been approved by the British Parliament in English only.

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The Ministry of Justice has prepared a French version of the constitutional texts, based on the work of the Committee of Constitutional Experts formed in 1984. They were introduced in the Houses of Commons and Senate in 1990.

The problem is that a constitutional amendment is necessary to enshrine the French version. This amendment would have to be approved not only by the House of Commons and the Senate, but by all provinces, according to some experts.

Since 1997, little effort has been made to persuade provinces to adopt it, particularly in the wake of the failure of two constitutional conventions (Meech in 1990 and Charlottetown in 1992) and the 1995 referendum in Quebec.

It requires a unanimous constitutional amendment. This is the main reason why not do this. It’s also about exempting Ottawa in some way, said Benoit Pelletier, a former Canadian government affairs minister in Quebec and constitutional expert.

concrete consequences

In 2018, the Canadian Bar Association recommended that the Trudeau government include an article in the news Official Languages ​​Law Requesting the Minister of Justice to submit, every five years, a detailed report on the efforts made to implement Article 55 of the Penal Code Constitution Act 1982.

This article specifically states that “the Canadian Minister of Justice is responsible for drafting, as soon as possible, the French version of the parts of the Constitution of Canada that appear in the Appendix.” [de cette loi] “.

According to the Canadian Bar Association, the lack of an official French version is not without consequences. Among other things, this “has practical implications for the development of law and reduces the value of the participation of French-speaking lawyers and litigants in discussions about the interpretation of basic legal texts in our society”.

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Senator Pierre Dalfond led a months-long crusade to persuade the Trudeau government to redouble its efforts to ensure that the French translation of the Constitution Act of 1867 adopted. He agreed to the proposal of the Canadian Bar Association.

Mr. Dalfond, who served in particular as a judge of the Quebec Court of Appeal, did not respond to messages from Journalism. But in a speech in the Senate last December, he called the situation “an embarrassment, especially to the federalists who live in Quebec.”

“Even if French-speaking Canadians had the constitutional right to rely on the French version of all ordinary federal laws, they could not exercise that fundamental right with respect to nearly all of Canada’s constitutional texts, that is, even though the state has been officially bilingual since 1968.”

In collaboration with William Leclerc, Journalism

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