James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages yesterday to address Bill C-232, a private members bill introduced by NDP caucus whip Yvon Godin, the simple aim of which is to require that all Supreme Court judges be fluent in both official languages.
Bill C-232 reads in English as follows:
1. Section 5 of the Supreme Court Act is renumbered as subsection 5(1) and is amended by adding the following:
(2) In addition, any person referred to in subsection (1) may be appointed a judge who understands French and English without the assistance of an interpreter.
According to various news reports, Minister Moore said that while bilingualism was important in such a position, “If someone cannot speak both official languages perfectly, this should not be a criteria that would prevent them from submitting their candidacy for the court.”
I’m not sure if there is information currently available as to whether all present judges of the court are in fact able to “understand” both official languages. I suspect that all may be able to read both languages, but that some might have trouble comprehending oral argument in French.