The Chair (Mr. Steven Blaney (Lévis—Bellechasse, CPC)):
Good morning everyone. Welcome to this 31st meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
This morning, our meeting concerns access to justice in Canada's two official languages. We'll be hearing from some prominent witnesses, starting with our Commissioner of Official Languages, Mr. Graham Fraser.
Welcome to your favourite committee, Mr. Fraser.
Mr. Fraser is accompanied by Ms. Tremblay, Director of the Legal Affairs Branch.
Welcome, Ms. Tremblay.
We also have Mr. Michel Doucet, Professor at the Faculty of Law of the Université de Moncton, who is also a committee regular.
Welcome, Professor Doucet.
We also have Ms. Aucoin, President of the Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law.
Welcome, Ms. Aucoin.
These witnesses will be making presentations to us. Also present to answer parliamentarians' questions are two representatives of the Department of Justice, whom we welcome, Ms. Andrée Duchesne, Senior Counsel and Manager, Francophonie, Justice in Official Languages and Legal Dualism, who has previously appeared before the committee, and Mr. Tremblay, General Counsel and Director of the Official Languages Law Group. They'll be able to answer all questions from members on the subject.
Without further ado, let's listen to the presentations. First, I'll invite Mr. Fraser to say a few words.
Mr. Graham Fraser (Commissioner of Official Languages, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages):
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to start off by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. I will use this occasion to share some thoughts on the judicial appointment process and the shortage of bilingual judges.
The shortage of bilingual judges in the superior courts of the provinces and territories is one of the main barriers to access to justice in both official languages. Yet, it is precisely these courts that are the ones who hear criminal law, family law and bankruptcy cases. Further, every Canadian's right to use English or French in Canadian courts is one of the basic language rights set out in our constitutional framework.
To ensure that all litigants have true access to the superior courts in the official language of their choice, it is essential that these courts have a sufficient number of bilingual judges at their disposal. The appointment process must therefore ensure the bilingual capacity of superior courts. Otherwise, access to justice in both official languages is compromised.
Since 1995, there has been much talk about the need to review the judicial appointment process. Some of my predecessors have raised the issue, as have French-speaking lawyers' associations and parliamentary committees.
I would like to briefly recall the efforts of these players in their attempts to convince the Government of Canada to take action.
In 1995, Commissioner Goldbloom published a study on the use of English and French before Canadian courts. In this study, he concluded that the linguistic abilities of superior courts and courts of appeal in the provinces and territories were unequal and insufficient. At the same time, the commissioner recommended that the federal government place considerable emphasis on language skills in selecting candidates for judicial appointment.
In 2003, the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages recommended that bilingualism be recognized as a criterion for the selection of judges. In its response, the government merely stated that the advisory committees take into account the candidates' proficiency in both official languages.
In June 2005, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness set up an ad hoc committee with a mandate to examine the nomination process for the federal judiciary. This subcommittee heard from a number of witnesses, including the Canadian Bar Association, la Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française, and my predecessor, Commissioner Dyane Adam. All the witnesses attempted to make committee members aware of the problem of the shortage of bilingual judges and proposed changes to the appointment process.
In November 2005, the Standing Committee on Justice tabled its 18th report, detailing the proceedings of the ad hoc subcommittee. The subcommittee did not have the time to finish its work before the 38th session of Parliament ended, but it did identify a few promising courses of action.
For example, a consensus was reached on the fact that judicial candidates should be interviewed during the appointment process. In my view, this measure would ensure that language skills of candidates are assessed before candidates are appointed. The subcommittee members agreed that the Minister of Justice should consult with the chief justice of the jurisdiction in question regarding the specific language needs of the court that has the vacancy. In her annual report tabled in 2004, my predecessor, Commissioner Adam, recommended that the Government of Canada re-examine the appointment process of superior court judges in order to provide these courts with an adequate bilingual capacity.
To date, the federal government's response to the recommendations of my predecessors and the House of Commons and Senate committees has been timid and largely inadequate.
I recognize that Minister Nicholson's practice of consulting with the chief justices on their specific needs in terms of bilingual capacity is a step in the right direction. However, I encourage the minister to show leadership and explore other solutions in concert with his provincial and territorial counterparts.
The time is right because Chris Bentley, Ontario's Attorney General, is currently examining this issue. At the beginning of the year, he started consultations on the recommendations made by Justice Osborne in his report on Ontario's civil justice system reform. Justice Osborne recognized the problem of the shortage of bilingual judges and recommended that any future appointments to the Superior Court should expressly consider the need for bilingual judges within a given region. I took the opportunity to write to Mr. Bentley and encourage him to initiate a dialogue with all key actors, including our Franco-Ontarian community, to ensure access to justice in both official languages.
Last, I'd like to share my view on the appointment process for the next judge of the Supreme Court of Canada. On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, it seems to me that knowledge of both official languages should be one of the qualifications sought for judges of Canada's highest court. Setting such a standard would prove to all Canadians that the Government of Canada is committed to linguistic duality. I find it essential that an institution as important as the Supreme Court of Canada not only be composed of judges with exceptional legal skills, but also reflect our values and our Canadian identity as a bijural and bilingual country.
Access to justice is one of the cornerstones of our judicial system. The insufficient bilingual capacity of the superior courts and courts of appeal of the provinces and territories means that a significant segment of the Canadian population is being denied the right to access justice in the official language of its choice.
As the Ontario Court of Appeal recently ruled in Belende, violation of these rights “constitutes material prejudice to the linguistic minority.” A review of the appointment process is essential to ensuring equal access to justice in both official languages.
Thank you. I am now prepared to answer your questions when the time is right.
Mr. Michel Doucet (Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Moncton, As an Individual):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Once again, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Official Languages for inviting me to meet with it today.
My presentation is in two parts. First, I'm going to talk about the legal framework for access to justice in Canada's two official languages. Second, I'll share with you my experience as a lawyer and counsel who has had to plead cases at all court levels and in a number of Canadian provinces, which will lead me to talk about the barriers that must be overcome when you have to present a case before a judge who doesn't directly understand the litigant's language.
I don't have to remind the committee that a country's legal system must reflect that country's values and culture. In a bilingual system, as is the case in Canada, it must therefore reflect not only the values of the majority, but also those of the official language minority. For the latter, the right to use its language in a legal proceeding is more than merely the right to procedural fairness and natural justice. Bilingualism in the courts requires that the official language minorities have a right to appear before judges who speak and understand their language.
By judicial bilingualism, I mean, in particular, the litigant's right to use either of the country's official languages before the courts. By courts, I mean the legal and administrative tribunals. The activities concerned include oral and written arguments, final decisions, judgments and orders, as well as communications between the judicial system and the public.
With respect to language rights concerning the judicial system, we must recognize that the courts have generally interpreted them in a restrictive manner. Section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867 guarantees language rights before any court established by Parliament and before the courts of Quebec; section 23 of the Manitoba Act, 1970 and section 19 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees litigants from Manitoba, New Brunswick and Quebec certain rights before the federal courts. The other provinces are not bound by those constitutional provisions, but they are nevertheless bound the provisions of section 530 of Canada's Criminal Code. Although it can be argued that the historical context that gave rise to each of those provisions is different, we must admit that those provisions are similar.
The Supreme Court moreover has had occasion to consider those provisions in three decisions, MacDonald, Société des Acadiens du Nouveau-Brunswick and Bilodeau, in 1986. In those decisions, the court held that the right to speak in one's language before the courts did not impose on the government or another individual the corresponding obligation to use the language thus chosen or any other obligation than that of not preventing those who wish to exercise that right to do so. It can only be hoped, following the Supreme Court's decision in Beaulac, that the courts will review those decisions and ultimately acknowledge that the right to use a language before a court also includes the right to be understood directly in that language.
I moreover note the remarks of the late Chief Justice Dickson in his dissenting opinion in Société des Acadiens. Chief Justice Dickson was a unilingual anglophone judge, but, in his dissenting opinion, he clearly understood the problem when he asked what good is a right to use one's language if those to whom one speaks cannot understand?
Parliament intervened in an effort to correct the harmful effects of the three 1986 decisions by passing subsection 16(1) of the Official Languages Act. That section provides that every federal court, other than the Supreme Court of Canada, has the duty to ensure that the language chosen by the parties is understood by the judge or other officer who hears those proceedings, without the assistance of an interpreter. Some justify the exception made for the Supreme Court by saying that, since it sits as a bench of nine judges, it does not have the organizational flexibility of other courts. In my opinion, that justification no longer stands in the present context.
Having established the legal framework, I will now consider what it means in practice.
My experience in the law shows me, for example, that, in New Brunswick, when the decision is made to proceed in French, that virtually eliminates two-thirds of the bench, that is to say two-thirds of the judges, because approximately 40% of the province's judges are bilingual. The choice of judges for francophone litigants is thus much narrower in a circumstance such as that than that of their anglophone fellow citizens, and that's in the only bilingual province in Canada.
As for the other provinces, I have had to plead cases concerning section 23, cases involving the right to minority language education. I have had to do it in English because those tribunals, those courts didn't have bilingual judges, or else the citizens did not have the right to use the official language of their choice.
I would especially like to talk about my experience before the Supreme Court of Canada. I have had to plead a number of cases before the Supreme Court of Canada. When you win a case by a nine to zero decision, that's far from being a dramatic situation, but when you lose a case in a five to four decision, as happened to me at one point, and you've pleaded that case in French, you then go home and listen to the English interpretation that was made of your argument before the court in which three judges didn't understand French. As the judges had to listen to the argument through the English interpretation on CPAC, you wonder about what they understood.
I listened to the English interpretation of my argument, and I understood none of it. I have a lot of respect for the interpreters and the work they have to do. It must be quite complicated to do it in a political context; I can imagine what it must be in a judicial context, where every word counts, where the interaction between bench and counsel plays a very important role, and where the questions put to counsel and the answers given can have an influence. In those circumstances, if I had to plead another case before a bench on which three judges did not directly understand the language in which I wanted to plead, I might suggest to my client that we proceed in the other language to ensure the nine judges were able to understand the argument.
I therefore believe that the Canadian context today is ripe enough with regard to bilingualism for an amendment to be made to the Official Languages Act to eliminate the exception made for the Supreme Court of Canada. It is also ripe enough for us to be able to require, if lawyers are warned long enough in advance, that any judge or person who would like to sit on or to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada be bilingual before his or her appointment.
In that respect, I agree with the comments made by the Association du Jeune Barreau de Montréal in an article published in La Presse a few weeks ago. It requested that, in the next round of Supreme Court appointments, it be ensured that judges are able to directly understand the French used in the arguments made by the parties, and not indirectly with the aid of interpretation or other means.
I also agree with the Commissioner's remarks concerning the obligation to have a sufficient number of judges in all Canadian provinces who can hear the trial in both languages. I'll go even further. It should now be required in New Brunswick, which is the only officially bilingual province, that, in judicial appointments, all individuals also be bilingual so that francophone litigants are not limited in their choice of judges before whom they appear.
Mrs. Louise Aucoin (President, Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law inc.):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for this invitation.
Allow me to talk very briefly about the Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law. FAJEF represents seven associations of French-language lawyers and its mandate is to promote and defend the language rights of francophone minorities, particularly—although not exclusively—in the administration of justice. We represent 1,350 lawyers. A number of them are graduates of the University of Moncton and the University of Ottawa, that is to say of common law faculties. We nevertheless represent many francophone and francophile lawyers who are graduates of all law faculties in Canada. We have an excellent representation of lawyers across Canada. FAJEF is also a member of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada.
Our presentation today will focus on the federal judicial appointment process in general, although we want to make a few comments and suggestions regarding the Supreme Court of Canada appointment process. I'm here today with Mr. Rénald Rémillard, Executive Director of FAJEF.
What are the provinces' judicial language obligations? As my colleague Mr. Doucet pointed out, the degree of judicial bilingualism varies from province to province in Canada. For example, the courts of Manitoba, Quebec and New Brunswick must all operate in both official languages. In Ontario, the same principles applies in the designated bilingual regions, which represent approximately 90% of the population of Ontario. Since 1990, in the undesignated bilingual regions of Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, judicial bilingualism obligations have been largely limited, but not always exclusively, to criminal trials. One thing is certain: in 2008, all provinces and territories must have a minimum number of bilingual judges. That was not previously the case. There has been some progress since 1990, when the present judicial appointment process was adopted.
What have been the results of the federal judicial appointment process? In our opinion, the current process too often produces unacceptable results. That observation is confirmed by our members, who for a number of years have told us about certain alarming situations in a number of provinces. Here are a few examples.
The citizens of Manitoba have the constitutional right to use the language of their choice before all courts. Despite that right, there were no bilingual judges in the Family Law Division of the Court of Queen's Bench until February 2005. For years, Manitoban francophone litigants wishing to divorce in French had to appear before a judge of the General Division of the Court of Queen's Bench. In concrete terms, that meant that litigants wishing to proceed in French in Manitoba often had to wait longer for a divorce than if they had proceeded in English, as a result of an absence of bilingual judges. Thus the federal judicial appointment process has not ensured respect for language rights in Manitoba for years, and there are no guarantees that things will be better in future.
In Ontario, the Superior Court must be able to hear trials in French in the designated regions. Despite that right, the Superior Court of Ontario has lost its bilingual capacity in Windsor and Welland. In Toronto, its bilingual capacity is distinctly inadequate. The situation is scarcely better in other Ontario regions, such as Parry Sound, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.
Since there are no official statistics on the number of bilingual judges on the federal bench in Canada, we are unsure of the number of bilingual judges in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
In Alberta and British Columbia, two judges per province speak fluent French in the provincial superior courts, but, in Saskatchewan, there is only one bilingual judge from the Court of Queen's Bench. If that judge is on sick leave or vacation leave, or if there is a conflict of interest, the right to a trial in French under the Criminal Code disappears in that province. This right is thus in a highly precarious position.
FAJEF is of the view that the current federal judicial appointment process does not take sufficient consideration of language rights. Furthermore, the absence of any mechanism to assess the degree of bilingualism of federal judicial candidates confirms, in our view, the lack of importance attached to the bilingualism criterion in the appointment of judges to the federal judiciary. The present appointment process must be reformed, at least with respect to official languages.
Here are some potential reforms or solutions to explore. We think it would be important to assess the number of bilingual judges necessary to ensure equal access in French. That number should be regularly reassessed for each of the provinces or regions, based, among other things, on the principle of equal access and on the constitutional and statutory obligations of the province or region. In such an assessment, the lawyers associations should be consulted because they know whether the number of bilingual judges affects access to justice for francophone litigants in their province. That information is not always known to other stakeholders or to chief judges, who often rely on actual demand in French, but not necessarily on potential demand.
Mechanisms that clearly enable the minister to request bilingual candidates on the committee would be another potential solution. It should be specifically provided that the minister be able to require a list of bilingual candidates from the committees, and that that be indicated on the lists of judges submitted to the minister. The bilingual capacity of candidates should be assessed because it is currently subject to no measurement. Individuals may declare themselves bilingual on an application form without actually being so. Experience moreover shows that people quite readily declare themselves bilingual, whereas they are much less so in actual fact. When it comes to hearing a trial, it is not enough to say: “Bonjour, comment allez-vous?”
To assess the bilingual capacity of judicial candidates, candidates could be interviewed and at least one of the members of the selection committee should be fluently bilingual. That member would thus be able to assess the level of bilingualism. Of course, in certain provinces, a minimum number of bilingual members would be unacceptable. We therefore support Mr. Doucet's suggestion.
Bilingual candidates should also be identified on a mandatory basis. It should be indicated whether the candidates recommended for their province or region are bilingual. There is currently nothing to suggest that a candidate's bilingualism is identified when that person's name appears on the list of recommended individuals.
With respect to the regression that has been noted in certain provinces, there shouldn't be any loss of bilingual capacity when a bilingual judge retires or leaves the bench. Every bilingual judge who retires should at least be automatically replaced by another bilingual judge. That would have the advantage of preventing judicial bilingualism from regressing, as we have recently witnessed in Ontario and New Brunswick.
Mrs. Louise Aucoin:
I'm going to talk about the Supreme Court of Canada right away. FAJEF considers it essential that all the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada be bilingual, for various reasons. English and French have constitutional or statutory status in the federal legal and judicial systems as well as in all the provinces and territories of Canada. The English and French versions of statutes are of equal weight at the federal level, in Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Ontario and in the three territories. In the circumstances, we feel that the ability of the nine Supreme Court justices to clearly understand both statutes is essential.
Canada's Official Languages Act already acknowledges the importance of being understood without the aid of interpretation in federal tribunals such as the Tax Court of Canada, the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal. The same right should apply to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In Canada, French enjoys equality of status and use with English. No francophone litigant should therefore be heard through interpretation before Canada's highest court. For these reasons, FAJEF requests that bilingualism become a mandatory criterion for appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Mr. Jean-Claude D'Amours (Madawaska—Restigouche, Lib.):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you all for being here this morning.
You mentioned that, to gain access to justice, you have to be able to be understood or at least have the impression that everything you say is understood. However, there does not appear to be any mechanism for ensuring that, when judicial candidates say they are bilingual, they in fact are. One wonders whether some aren't stretching the truth a little to ensure they get a position. I don't know whether you will venture an opinion on this, but from what can be seen, one would say that some are stretching the truth a little.
Furthermore, to secure certain positions in the Public Service of Canada—let's call them customer service positions—if people don't pass an exam, if they don't qualify linguistically, they won't get that position. But these are merely customer service positions, providing a service in both official languages. These are often extremely trivial matters. It's general information intended for the Canadian public.
However, when it comes to appearing before a court to assert one's rights, there's no procedure assuring citizens that they can be adequately understood. All this is a little ironic. In the case of a simple general information service, we ensure that people are bilingual; if they don't pass the test, they don't get the job. In the case of protecting citizens' rights, we aren't required to ensure that the people who make the decisions are bilingual.
When you think of these two extremes, do you find that ironic? Are you prepared to venture an opinion on what I talked about earlier, the truth that people are stretching in order to get a position? Then I'd like to know whether the most recent judicial appointments made by the federal government—I'm thinking of New Brunswick in particular—offer francophones a guarantee that they'll be able to be served more in the language of their choice.
Mr. Fraser, Mr. Doucet and Ms. Aucoin, I'll let you answer.
Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to welcome our guests this morning.
Listening to the testimony, I think this is becoming troubling in one sense. Mr. Doucet, when you talked about from "9 to 0", I thought you were talking about a Canadiens hockey game. I didn't really think that the Supreme Court had nine justices. However, the expression "9 to 0" meant there were nine judges and that, when they all shared the same opinion, there were fewer problems. Except that, when the score is five to four, it's a close game that could go into overtime, and then you said that the fifth point was due to the fact that the judge hadn't understood the argument, since you didn't understand your own argument when you listened to the interpretation, with all the respect you have for interpreters.
That's troubling. The Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Canada. It is the last stage of the justice process for Canadians. For those who are judged, it's their future that can be ruined. That's why we have a justice system.
What we're hearing from you this morning is appalling. I'm anxious to hear you on the subject. I wouldn't have liked to be your client, even though you are a good lawyer. You won a lot of cases in the Supreme Court with colleagues, but when you tell me about the interpretation service you received in the Supreme Court in a specific case, I think someone didn't have any luck in court that day.
I would like to hear you on that subject.
Mr. Daniel Petit (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, CPC):
Good morning, Mr. Fraser. Good morning to the other guests as well. Welcome to the committee.
My question is for Mr. Fraser, Mr. Doucet and Ms. Duchesne. I've been a lawyer for 35 years and, unlike Mr. Doucet, I haven't had the opportunity to go to the Supreme Court. I worked with ordinary people in the lower courts. What do those people want? First, they want access to justice in their language. The information must be laid in their language. In other words, if they are accused of something, they want to be able to read the indictment.
If I don't have any money, I want federally-funded legal aid to enable me to get a lawyer who speaks my language. When I appear before the court, I want the evidence provided to me by Crown counsel, since we are at the federal level, to be in my language. That's access to justice. When I appear before the judge, I'll see whether I'll plead guilty. But that's another matter.
I also want to the clerk of the court to be able to speak my language, because he holds certain things. For example, he can compile evidence that will be used in a subsequent appeal, if necessary. That's what I mean by access to justice.
The judge is an extremely important instrument, but I have all this way to go before appearing before him.
Mr. Fraser, are we currently going all that way? Then I'm going to ask Ms. Duchesne, Ms. Aucoin and everyone to answer the question.
Mr. Marc Tremblay:
I'd like to add a brief comment.
The conclusion seems to be that this lack of complaints stems from poor knowledge of rights. However, that's an opinion. I'm not sure the Office of the Commissioner has specific figures that could support that fact.
I can say that, in my 10 years dealing with language rights at the Department of Justice, to my knowledge, we only had to handle a single complaint concerning the question of access, and it involved the Attorney General of Canada, whether it was before criminal courts or civil courts.
We're making efforts to increase litigants' awareness back home. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages has a mandate to make the public aware of their language rights. We must definitely continue making efforts in that area.
However, before drawing any negative conclusions about the lack of complaints, perhaps we should rethink this process somewhat.
Mrs. Carole Freeman (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, BQ):
Thank you for being here today.
I'd like to ask other questions on the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court.
I had the privilege of being a member of the committee when Mr. Justice Rothstein appeared. We took great note of his knowledge of the French language. I must say that, at every point, he declared his commitment to take courses that would enable him, in the space of two years, to master the language well enough to be able to comply.
Later, Mr. Nicholson appeared in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, of which I am also a member. The minister had assured us that this was not a major handicap, since one could very well learn the language quite quickly. What took precedence in the appointment of a Supreme Court justice, apparently, was legal ability more than language ability.
I also heard Mr. Doucet say that a distinct improvement has been noted with regard to Supreme Court justices. Could you provide some clarification on that point? I don't see a major improvement.
Mrs. Carole Freeman:
I think you're absolutely right to say that it's elementary, in a country that defends both official languages, for the highest court to be able to operate in both languages. It seems to me that's elementary. If we look at the problem at its source, judicial appointments are said to be a federal jurisdiction. Everyone knows that the government proceeded unilaterally to amend judicial appointments last November by changing the composition of the evaluation committee. On the evaluation committee, of course, they forgot to take the language provision into account.
You know that, previously, to appoint a judge—and that's a federal jurisdiction—the evaluation committee had to have a member from the Canadian Bar Association, a member from the provincial bar association, the Attorney General, a member of the judiciary and three individuals appointed by the government. They changed that way of appointing judges by designating a member of the Canadian Bar Association, a member of the provincial bar, a member of the police department, or who represents it unilaterally, and three individuals from the government. The committee was completely changed.
Do you think we could change it more in order to take language into account? Currently the Conservative government's claims are very much taken into account, but could we introduce this provision in the way judges are appointed, in the evaluation committee?
Mr. Graham Fraser: Absolutely.
Ms. Carole Freeman: And what do you propose?
Hon. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I don't want to talk about courses given by the Department of Justice, but about courses. I especially want to announce to you, Mr. Chairman, that I will be tabling a motion to request that the Standing Committee on Official Languages recommend that justices appointed to the Supreme Court be bilingual. I will eventually table a private bill to make the necessary changes to ensure that we have bilingualism. When a court is the court of last resort, that's where it happens. It's like in hockey. When the puck goes by the goaltender, you can no longer stop it: it's gone in; it's over. So you have to be subtle. These are important technical and legal concepts. If people aren't able to make themselves understood in their language, I'm sorry, but they get the feeling they are second-class citizens. There has to be justice—isn't that true, Mr. Tremblay?—there has to be the appearance of justice. So it's necessary that that appearance of justice also take on its full force.
What also concerns me is that we unfortunately always get the feeling that bilingualism is a francophone who speaks English. When there are eight bilingual individuals and one anglophone and everybody is speaking English, that's nice, that's fine, but personally that's a problem for me. Everyone agrees that there is a problem of perception, that there is a double standard when you find yourself in superior courts where the judge has trouble communicating, or you're unable to get judges who allow you to be heard.
I'd simply like to ask you whether you get the feeling that, even though there are stays of proceedings in the Criminal Code and elements that make it possible to postpone a case, very often people need to be heard, and if you aren't on the same footing as people who can make themselves understood immediately in English, there's somehow a certain injustice. Even if you sweep the dust under the carpet by saying that that will come one day, ultimately, it's as though we were saying to ourselves that we'll stop at the street corner and wait for an RCMP officer for two more hours because we want to be served in French.
What do you think of what I've just told you, Commissioner, and then Mr. Doucet?