According to yesterday’s news (see here for an article from the National Post), the government of New Brunswick will be asking the Supreme Court of Canada to look into the status of its language laws as it appeals the decision of its appellate court upholding the decision of a provincial judge who excluded breath-sample evidence of a suspected impaired driver pursuant to s. 24(2) of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms because his language rights had been violated (see R. v. Losier, 2011 NBCA 102 (CanLII)). Indeed, in that case, a police officer only offered the suspected impaired driver the right to be served in French thirty minutes into his detention, which was found to be contrary to the province’s language laws. A similar defence has been raised in a number of New Brunswick cases already. The province seeks a decision on whether or not a Charter remedy can be used for the breach of a provincial law, in this case, New Brunswick’s Official Languages Act.
Living and working in a province in which language rights are an extremely sensitive topic, this news is particularly interesting considering the impact any Supreme Court decision could have on language rights in Canada. Should the Supreme Court accept to hear this appeal, it looks like it will ultimately be asked to weigh in on the appropriate balance between the protection of language rights and the protection of the public.