I was sitting in court on Friday, waiting for the Court of Queen’s Bench Appearance Court to start when the presiding justice, Chief Justice Moreau, played a recording for everyone. The recording outlined, in French and English, how everyone has the right to have their trials conducted in either of the official languages.
This was new! Some people in court appeared surprised but this is just the latest positive change we are seeing for language rights in Alberta. In an 18 page decision, R v Vaillancourt (written in French and issued on November 12, 2019), Mr. Justice Ouellette had recently held that the s. 530 rights of my client had been violated.
Section 530 of the Criminal Code has been in place for years but not vigorously respected in Alberta – until now. While everyone has the right to an interpreter, French and English, as the official languages of Canada, enjoy special status. Section 530 means that if someone decides to have a trial in French, the judge, Crown, clerk and lawyer all speak French and an interpreter is only required for those witnesses who do not speak French.
I am keeping my fingers crossed that our Provincial Court soon follows suit.