The Canadian government announced this week that it is restoring parts of the Court Challenges Program abolished in 2006.
The Program provided funding to minority, women’s and other disadvantaged groups to launch “test court cases” challenging laws that may violate equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The government is only reestablishing the official languages minority component of the program, under the name Program to Support Linguistic Rights.
However, funding has not been restored for Charter challenges by other groups such as ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians or people with disabilities.
The new program will focus on “mediation and consensus-based decisions to facilitate amicable agreements (…) The program will also provide funding for court proceedings to focus on linguistic rights under the Constitution of Canada, when mediation efforts have failed and a test case is involved.”
This can be read as excluding funding for court challenges under the Official Languages Act or provincial/territorial laws affecting official language minority rights.
Earlier this month, the government reached an out-of-court settlement with the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, ending the francophone lobby group’s legal battle to restore the $3-million-a-year Court Challenges Program the Conservative government killed at the end of 2006.
Earlier posts on the Library Boy blog:
- 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’.”
- 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’. ”
- Impact on Language Minorities from Court Challenges Program Cancellation (January 22, 2008): “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.”