Friday April 23, 2010

Editorial: Canadian Top Court Bilingual Requirement Could Stack the Ideological Deck

Editorial by John-Henry Westen

April 23, 2010 ( – Without much public notice or debate, legislation to require Canadian Supreme Court Justices to be fully bilingual – Bill C-232 – passed the House of Commons last month and is currently being debated in the Senate.

Given the statistics on bilingualism in Canada, the requirement would appear to bias the selection of Supreme Court Justices to individuals from Quebec. Combined with statistics that indicate that Quebec is the most liberal Canadian province in many areas, including on euthanasia, abortion and same-sex ‘marriage,’ the picture that emerges is of requirement that could ideologically bias the court further to the left.

The Supreme Court, made up of nine justices, is already weighted in favor of Quebec, with three of the nine justices hailing from the province by legal requirement – even though only 23% of Canada’s population resides in Quebec. Moreover, even though by convention 3 of the 9 are to come from Ontario, one of the “Ontario” Justices – Justice Ian Binnie, was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. And with the language requirement, the idea of parachuting Quebec judges into other regions of the country to satisfy the requirements of regional diversity would come naturally.

According to 2001 Census figures, only 17.7% of the country is bilingual, and of that 17.7%, 56% reside in Quebec. Outside of Ontario and Quebec, all the other provinces and territories combined make up 19% of bilingual Canadians.

Are concerns about ideological bias with selections from Quebec justified? Everything points to this being the case. Take a look at opinions on the hottest topics – abortion, gay ‘marriage,’ day care, gun control, easy divorce, religious freedom. Quebec stands far to the left of other Canadian provinces on all these issues.

Take, for instance, the recent award of the Order of Canada to abortionist Henry Morgentaler – it was opposed by majorities in every Canadian province, except Quebec. According to a 2008 KLRVU Research poll, only 47% of Quebecers opposed the award to Morgentaler. In liberal Ontario 58% were opposed, in conservative Alberta 64% were opposed, and in Nova Scotia 68% were against it.)

An Angus Reid poll taken this February found that 67% of Canadians supported legalizing euthanasia; but Quebec topped the charts with 77% support.

A 2008 Environics poll showed that support for cutting funding for abortions, except in cases of medical emergency, was highest in Atlantic Canada (56%) and Alberta (54%), and lowest in Quebec (42%).

Quebec has been at the forefront in supporting controversial proposals that are rejected in the rest of the country. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s recently failed plan to force graphic sex-ed into all elementary classrooms, even in religious schools, is old news in La Belle Province. Already in 2006, private Christian schools in the province were ordered to teach sex education and Darwin‘s theory of evolution or face closure.

In December, the Quebec Government boasted of its new provincial policy against “homophobia,” touted as the first of its kind from a North American jurisdiction.

If Quebec judges are one day to make up the majority of our supreme court, thanks to the proposed bilingualism requirement, let’s hope that the rulings will not resemble those of Madam Justice Suzanne Tessier of the Quebec Superior Court. In 2008, she ruled on the case of a 12-year-old girl who took her dad to court for grounding her from a school trip because she posted photos of herself on a dating website. The judge found the dad in the wrong.

The Private Members Bill sponsored by New Brunswick NDP MP Yvon Godin passed the Commons in a vote of 140-137 and is now before the Senate.

To contact Senators: