Equality rights are of real importance to Canadian society, but language rights are fundamentally different and the two streams within the Court Challenges Program should be independent of each other, the Quebec Community Groups Network told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights studying the government’s pledge to reinstate the program.

“Courts play a central part in protecting and advancing linguistic rights, a process that invariably pits governments against Canada’s official language minorities,” commented Marlene Jennings, who appeared with the QCGN to represent Quebec’s English-speaking minority community.

“Our community has a long association with the Court Challenges Program, which was key in upholding and advancing the language rights of English-speaking Quebecers; particularly in the 1980s when we fought for freedom of expression in Ford,” said Jennings referring to the case where the Supreme Court ruled that English was allowed on signs as long as French was predominant.

“The Court Challenges program was also instrumental in funding cases that defined the scope of minority language educational rights after the repatriation of the Constitution in 1982,” recounted Jennings, who noted that the protection and advancement of these rights remains a very real and continuing need in the face of legislation like the much maligned educational reforms sought by the Government of Quebec.