Unilingual lieutenant governor in NB: federal victory on appeal

Unilingual lieutenant governor in NB: federal victory on appeal
Unilingual lieutenant governor in NB: federal victory on appeal

The highest court in the province rendered its decision on Thursday in this case. The three signatory judges – including Chief Justice Marc Richard – overturn the decision rendered in 2022 in this case by the Court of King’s Bench.

The Court of Appeal finds that the appointment of Brenda Murphy as lieutenant governor of New Brunswick in 2019 did not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to the judges, the Charter gives francophones in New Brunswick the right to receive services in French from government institutions, but that this right has limits.

This is not the right to “address” or otherwise communicate with the Head of State or the individual who personifies the institution. we read in the decision.

A setback for the Société de l’Acadie du N.-B.

This is a major setback for the Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick, which led this fight in court and won the first round.

In April 2022, the Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench, Tracey K. DeWare, ruled in favor of the SANB.

She ruled that the person who occupies the position of lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick must be able to express himself in both official languages. Judge DeWare, however, did not invalidate the appointment of Brenda Murphy.

The federal government appealed this decision and the New Brunswick government subsequently jumped into the fray by obtaining intervener status.

The New Brunswick Court of Appeal hears arguments from both parties in June 2023 (new window).

Is the lieutenant governor an institution?

One of the central questions in the case was whether the lieutenant governor should be considered an institution and therefore be subject to the same obligations as departments and Crown corporations, for example.

Lawyers for the federal government argued that the lieutenant governor is not an institution – even if she is the only one to occupy this position – and that she therefore cannot be required to be bilingual.

The lawyers of the New Brunswick Acadian SocietySANB for their part argued that we cannot dissociate the position from the person who occupies it and that the latter must therefore be able to express themselves in English and French.

It now remains to be seen whether the New Brunswick Acadian SocietySANB will appeal this decision.

In June 2023, when the New Brunswick Court of Appeal considered the case, Chief Justice Marc Richard said he expected the case would eventually end up in the Supreme Court of Canada.

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