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Judge suspends two articles of Quebec’s new language law, citing access to justice

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Judge suspends two articles of Quebec’s new language law, citing access to justice

Quebec’s new language law suffered a first defeat on Friday, as a judge temporarily suspended a provision requiring English court documents to be translated into French.

Sections of Bill 96 that require corporations to pay a certified translator to produce French versions of legal documents could prevent some English-speaking organizations from accessing justice, Quebec Superior Court Justice Chantal Corriveau ruled.

Corriveau sided with a group of lawyers who argued that the translation requirement violates sections of the 1867 Constitution Act that guarantee access to the courts in both official languages. In a written judgment released Friday, Corriveau said the rule could cause delays and costs that could particularly hurt small and medium-sized businesses.

“The evidence demonstrates a serious risk that, in these cases, certain legal persons will not be able to assert their rights before the courts in a timely manner, or will be forced to do so in a language other than the official language which they and their lawyers master the best and which they identify as their own,” she wrote.

The judge ordered that the two articles be stayed until the case can be heard on its merits, likely in November.

According to the court challenge, the group of lawyers claim there is a limited number of certified legal translators, especially in some regions, and that their services cost between $0.20 and $0.40 a word. Members of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake filed court statements noting that they were one of many groups that would be negatively affected by the law.

Lawyers representing the attorney general of Quebec pushed back on the idea that there aren’t enough translators or that the requirement creates any obstacles to accessing justice.

Élisabeth Gosselin, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, said Friday in an emailed response to the ruling, “It should be noted that the provisions in this case are intended to promote better access to justice in the official and common language, French.

“The government is firmly committed to defending this fundamental right. We will not comment further at this time.”

Corriveau agreed that the lawyers raised valid questions about barriers to justice, especially in urgent cases that “may require rapid intervention before the courts to avoid irreparable harm.”

Félix-Antoine Doyon, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said his clients believe in the need to protect the French language but feel the government went “very far” with certain provisions of Bill 96.

“We need to protect French but we also need to protect access to justice, and we must remember that in a civilized society the system of justice is there for the people, and for legal persons as well,” he said in a phone interview, adding that he expected to be ready to argue the case on its merits in November.

Doyon noted that his challenge concerns only a very small portion of the law, and he warned against drawing wider conclusions on what the decision could mean for other challenges to the legislation. Doyon and the other lawyers are among several groups mounting legal challenges to Bill 96, which aims to strengthen the use of French through updated language regulations that affect businesses, junior colleges, immigration and the courts.

Earlier this week, lawyers for Quebec’s judicial council — Conseil de la magistrature du Québec — and for three senior provincial court judges, including Chief Judge Lucie Rondeau, filed a suit to strike down parts of the law allowing the justice minister to decide which judicial postings require knowledge of English. Those sections of Bill 96 violate the 1867 Constitution Act, the lawyers said.

Among the contested provisions of Bill 96 is one that requires the justice minister to take “all reasonable means” to avoid forcing judges to know any language other than French. Those provisions, according to Quebec’s judicial council, “undermine judicial independence, linguistic rights and the fundamental right of litigants to access justice.”

In February, a Superior Court justice ruled that Jolin-Barrette did not have the power to decide which judicial postings require knowledge of English. The government did not appeal that ruling but instead amended Bill 96 to give the minister more power over the linguistic requirements of judicial postings.

Gosselin said Bill 96 reflects the will of Quebecers. “Not being proficient in a language other than the official and common language should not automatically be a barrier to becoming a judge in Quebec,” she wrote.

The law, which was adopted earlier this year, also proactively invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to shield it from Charter challenges.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

— With files from Jacob Serebrin.

 

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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Canada matching more donations for Pakistan flood aid, will raise cap to $5M – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

The federal government will extend its matching of donations to help people dealing with catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in hopes the crisis doesn’t fall off the public radar.

“I felt that it wasn’t getting the (media) coverage that a crisis like this deserves,” International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a Thursday interview.

Severe monsoon rains this summer have affected more than 33 million people, many of whom have needed emergency food, water, sanitation and health services.

More than one-third of Pakistan was underwater, including much of its agricultural land, which experts believe will spark a food shortage.

Sajjan said he saw devastating scenes on a visit to the country earlier this month.

“When I was flying over affected areas, you literally could not see the end,” he said.

“Countries that have had the least to do with contributing to climate change are actually now the most greatly affected by it.”

On Sept. 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match up to $3 million in donations made to the Humanitarian Coalition and its dozen member charities.

That matching campaign was due to end on Wednesday.

Sajjan said it will be extended, and the amount is now capped at $5 million.

Ottawa previously committed $30 million of its own spending.

Sajjan said the idea has been to respond to the immediate, interim and long-term needs of the country, to make sure the right amount of aid dollars reach the correct places.

“What we’re doing is funding in chunks, to make sure we’re assessing the needs in a timely basis so the resources can be there,” he said.

“Now we that we have a little bit of breathing space, we are looking at the midterm need assessment.”

Canada will likely fund climate mitigation work in the country once it has recovered, to lower the impact of future floods, Sajjan said.

He noted that Canada helped fund the early-warning system that officials told him was key to saving lives this summer.

That came after massive 2010 floods in Pakistan.

Within a year, the former Harper government pledged $71.8 million for relief efforts, including $46.8 million from donations Ottawa had matched.

When asked why Canada is only matching slightly more than one-tenth that amount, the Humanitarian Coalition said the funding is in line with cost-matching in past crises such as the 2021 earthquake in Haiti.

“To be sure, the match amount is modest, but it does fit within a recent range,” wrote spokeswoman Marg Buchanan.

She said the amounts are based on what humanitarian groups predict people will donate, “influenced by timing, waning media interest and other dominant stories.”

NDP development critic Heather McPherson argued the Liberals have been slow to put up the funding promised for other humanitarian initiatives.

She pointed to unspent funds in Ukraine and for reproductive health elsewhere.

“Their announcements are starting to be a little slim; I don’t think people are feeling very reassured,” McPherson said.

The Conservatives have called on the government to allow cost-matching for more organizations responding to disasters, including the flooding in Pakistan.

“It is easier (for Ottawa) to say that it is going to match a contribution to this big player, as opposed to saying it is going to match donations to all of the organizations that are doing this work,” Garnett Genuis told the Commons this week.

“Organizations tell me that they get calls from previous donors who say they were going to donate to what they were doing, but they actually want to donate to another organization that is getting matched.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

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GOVERNMENT FAILURE TO RESPECT SEX WORKERS’ HUMAN RIGHTS FORCES SEX WORKERS BACK TO COURT

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Sex Worker Legal Media Briefing: Monday, October 3, 2022, 1pm, 330 University Avenue (Ontario Superior Court)

 

September 29, 2022 – The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform — an alliance of 25 sex worker led groups representing thousands of sex workers across the country — along with several individual applicants, is going back to court to challenge sex work laws next week. The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) introduced in 2014 has failed to protect sex workers and has caused grave human rights violations. In 2014, the Liberal government promised to repeal PCEPA; 7 years later they have failed to act and sex workers have been forced to work in the context of criminalization causes harm to their lives.

 

“Taken individually and together, the PCEPA provisions reproduce harms of the criminal laws struck down in Canada v. Bedford and causes new harms to all sex workers,” says Jenn Clamen, National Coordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR) speaking at a media briefing this morning. “We don’t want to be going to court again, it is a waste of precious community resources and time. This government can put an end to this by proposing a Bill for total decriminalization of sex work that would save lives and protect sex workers’ human rights. The harms of these provisions are extensively documented in our evidentiary record, which includes academic and community research on the experiences of Indigenous, Black, racialized, trans, and migrant sex workers across the country, many of whom work in some of the most difficult conditions.”

Sex worker rights organizations are seeking to strike down criminal prohibitions on sex work arguing they violate sex workers’ human rights to dignity, health, equality, security, autonomy, and safety of people who work in the sex industry, which includes their right to safe working conditions. 

Before PCEPA became law, sex workers warned of the dangers of criminalization; the Liberal, NDP, and Green Party rejected the PCEPA as it moved its way through the House of Commons. Once passed, however, there has only been government inaction and many expected harms to sex workers’ lives.

The most marginalized sex workers working in public space feel the brunt of PCEPA. Monica Forrester, a 2Spirit Black and Indigenous sex worker explains, “Clients fear detection by police, which impacts my ability to communicate with them, and make my work riskier. I cannot negotiate prices and services with clients, especially in public spaces, because the police might show up. The fear of police makes me rush and I’m not able to do the screening I need to. PCEPA puts me at risk every day, it must be repealed, let us work safely.”

 

PCEPA criminalizes communicating to sell sexual services in public, communicating to purchase sexual services in any context, facilitating or receiving a benefit related to the purchase of someone else’s sexual services, and advertising sexual services.  

 

“Black sex workers are isolated and criminalized by PCEPA, these racist laws must be repealed” added Ellie Ade Kur. “Black sex workers are often required to rely on existing networks of other Black sex workers for help and support, but due to anti-Black racism, Black sex workers are often characterized as “pimps” when working together, for example, by sharing space, sharing supports, and splitting costs for services like drivers, booking, and screening support. As a result, Black sex workers have reported that they are afraid that helping one another will result in arrest and prosecution for third party offences.” 

 

Sex workers face risk child apprehension, loss of life and life supports, detention and deportation, experience targeted violence, lack of access to health, legal, and social sercices experience human rights abuses as sex workers try to avoid detection by law enforcement, live and work in precarious and unsafe conditions, and do not seek help or report crimes against them. 

 

“Unlike other industries, the criminalization of sex work gives police the power to investigate sex workers’ workplaces, and the impact of their decision touch on all aspects of sex worker lives. This is especially true for Asian and migrant sex workers, these laws must be repealed”, added Elene Lam, founder of Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Worker Support Network explains, “Sex workers are less likely to get help when they need it and the vast majority of Butterfly participants who have been injured in the workplace have not reported the injuries or sought compensation. Both sex workers and managers have indicated that they are afraid of disclosing their involvement in the sex industry, because it threatens their livelihood, and they may lose their immigration status and face deportation.”
 
“The Crown and anti-sex work advocates intervening in the case continue to ignore the realities of the most marginalized sex workers working in the most difficult conditions. This law, that fundamentally denies sex workers’ constitutional rights, needs to be struck down,” says Sandra Ka Hon Chu, co-director of the HIV Legal Network, member of CASWLR.

 

This is the first constitutional challenge to PCEPA provisions initiated by sex workers, and the first to challenge all the provisions individually and together arguing they violate sex workers’ human rights to dignity, health, equality, security, autonomy and safety of people who work in the sex industry, which includes their right to safe working conditions. Public hearings at Superior Court begin on October 3rd and continue throughout the week. 

For more information about the case: http://sexworklawreform.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Infosheet-ENG.pdf

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TRC head questions why Catholic Church didn’t sell property to compensate victims

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OTTAWA — The former head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission says the argument Ottawa made in 2015 that the Catholic Church was unlikely to raise the money it promised to residential school survivors is “blatantly dishonest.”

Murray Sinclair, a former senator, also believes the current Liberal government should seek outside legal advice on the final agreement that released Catholic entities of their remaining financial obligations, including raising $25 million for survivors.

“I don’t think that Justice Canada has come out very well, not only in regard to this, but with regard to other matters, including the fact that it advocates so strongly against the interests of survivors,” he told The Canadian Press in an interview earlier this month.

“I think that relationship needs to be looked at more closely.”

Documents released to The Canadian Press through an access-to-information request detail the reasons Ottawa decided not to appeal a 2015 court decision that ruled in favour of Catholic entities that were party to the historic Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The 2006 agreement included a group of Catholic entities who signed on to provide financial compensation to residential school survivors, including by way of a $25-million fundraising campaign.

The matter ended up before a Saskatchewan judge, who in 2015 ruled the Catholic entities were free of their remaining obligations in exchange for a payment of $1.2 million.

By that time, the Catholic groups had raised less than $4 million of the $25 million promised, and the court decision allowed them to walk away without fulfilling the rest of the pledge.

Canada was in the middle of a federal election at the time, but internal briefing documents show that the Conservative government of then-prime minister Stephen Harper chose not to appeal.

The briefing notes contain a copy of the signed agreement Canada struck with the Catholic entities following the court ruling. It shows Canada agreed to “forever discharge” the Catholic groups from their financial obligations under the residential school settlement agreement.

The documents also show that one of the considerations officials weighed when deciding whether to appeal the court decision had been that they felt the chances of being able to compel the Catholic entities to meet the fundraising promise were “very low.”

“It’s blatantly dishonest,” Sinclair said in reaction.

He said Catholic entities own “considerable properties” across the country, which they could have disposed of to finance their fundraising campaign.

“That’s what they should have done.”

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minster Marc Miller said in a statement that he hasn’t sought further review of the 2015 release agreement. “Outside legal counsel was not sought, as after review, it was confirmed that there were no outstanding or unresolved questions about the legal parameters of the agreement.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the national assembly representing Catholic leadership in the country, has acknowledged that the first fundraising campaign was a failure that sowed significant disappointment and anger among residential school survivors.

The conference was not a party in the initial settlement agreement.

Nonetheless, in fall 2021 it committed to undertake a new drive to contribute $30 million to reconciliation-related initiatives over five years.

The conference released a statement on Thursday that says 73 Catholic dioceses have committed to paying into the fund, which has been registered as a charity.

So far, $5.5 million has been raised in that campaign, the statement says.

More scrutiny has been applied to the steps the Catholic Church in Canada has taken to make amends to residential school survivors since last year.

That’s when First Nations across Western Canada began announcing that ground-penetrating radar technology had confirmed the presence of what are believed to be unmarked graves at the former sites of residential schools.

More than 150,000 Indigenous people were forced to attend the institutions, where many suffered physical and sexual abuse, as well as neglect and malnutrition. A majority were operated by the Catholic Church.

Friday marks the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors of the system and the children who died.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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