Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Impact on Language Minorities from Court Challenges Program Cancellation

The most recent issue of the Canadian government's Weekly Checklist of official publications lists the December 2007 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages on the Court Challenges Program.

The Weekly Checklist is a listing of book and serial titles which have been released each week by the Parliament of Canada, federal departments, and Statistics Canada.

The Court Challenges Program (CCP) provided funding to help minority, women's and other disadvantaged groups so they could launch "test court cases" challenging laws that may violate equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The program was ended by the current Conservative government in 2006.
"The report analyzes various positions taken by witnesses on the main issues arising from the government's decision to cancel the CCP in 2006. These issues are the Program's contribution to the vitality of official-language minority communities, the access to justice that it made possible, the federal government's commitment to consult the communities on decisions likely to affect their development, the government's right to exercise its prerogatives freely, and the Program's neutrality. Other more secondary issues are also discussed, such as the relevant case law, the current government alleged promotion of the CCP to the international community, and the lack of transparency for which the CCP was criticized before the signing of the 2004-2009 contribution agreement."

"Five options were considered in order to determine what the government should do about the CCP. A majority of the Committee's members decided that the only valid
option at this point was to re-establish the Program. A majority of the members were however prepared to analyse the other options at a future date, but only after the government had rectified the error it committed in cancelling the CCP without consulting the official-language minority communities, and without explaining to Canadians the reasons for its decision. The report's main recommendation therefore consists in requesting the government to restore funding for the Court Challenges Program."
Earlier Library Boy posts about the Court Challenges Program:
  • Court Challenges Program Challenged? (September 7, 2006): "Newspapers of the CanWest Global chain distributed a Janice Tibbetts article today that claims that the federal government may be considering the elimination of the Court Challenges Program as part of an overall review of government programs (...) The CanWest News Service article entitled Funding for minority groups to challenge federal laws under review reports that the program, first set up under former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, 'has been the target of harsh criticism from social conservatives and critics of so-called judicial activism, who assert the initiative is a slush-fund for left-leaning groups to circumvent the will of elected legislators by challenging them in court'."
  • Official Languages Commission Annual Report 2006-2007 (May 15, 2007): "In his first official report, released today, Canada's new Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser faults the federal government for its lack of leadership in promoting the rights of linguistic minorities in Canada. Fraser, who was appointed to the position last year, praises the government for its formal commitment to defending and promoting Canada's linguistic duality. But he explains that the words are not being followed by action. And he comes down hard on the Conservatives for their abolition of the Court Challenges Program which provided funding to minority groups to help mount challenges to government policies in court."
  • Lawsuit to Reinstate Federal Court Challenges Program (January 8, 2008): "According to [the Osgoode Hall Law School blog] The Court, 'Last month, a coalition of eight organizations representing equality-seeking communities announced that it will file a motion in Federal Court to intervene in a case challenging the decision of the federal government to cut funding to the Court Challenges Program (...) While operating, the program funded cases dealing with issues such as same-sex marriage, accessibility rights for people with disabilities, sex discrimination, violence against women, criminal law provisions regarding the use of disciplinary force against children, and racial discrimination in the immigration system'. "

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:20 pm

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