R. v. Caron (G.) et al., (2015) 477 N.R. 200 (SCC)

JudgeMcLachlin, C.J.C., Abella, Rothstein, Cromwell, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Wagner, Gascon and Côté JJ.
CourtSupreme Court of Canada
Case DateNovember 20, 2015
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(2015), 477 N.R. 200 (SCC);2015 SCC 56

R. v. Caron (G.) (2015), 477 N.R. 200 (SCC)

MLB headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]

.........................

Temp. Cite: [2015] N.R. TBEd. NO.024

Gilles Caron (appellant) v. Her Majesty the Queen (respondent)

Pierre Boutet (appellant) v. Her Majesty the Queen (respondent) and Attorney General of Canada, Attorney General for Saskatchewan, Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association, Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord No. 2, Denis Lefebvre, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta, Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise and Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law inc. (interveners)

(35842; 2015 SCC 56; 2015 CSC 56)

Indexed As: R. v. Caron (G.) et al.

Supreme Court of Canada

McLachlin, C.J.C., Abella, Rothstein, Cromwell, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Wagner, Gascon and Côté JJ.

November 20, 2015.

Summary:

The two accused, whose mother tongue was French, were charged with an offence under the Traffic Safety Act (Alta.) and its Use of Highways and Rules of Road Regulations. The legislation was enacted, printed and published in English only by virtue of s. 3 of the Languages Act (Alta.). The accused argued that their constitutional language rights were violated because the relevant legislation was not published in French. They filed a Notice of a Constitutional Question and sought the following remedies: (1) a declaration under s. 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, that the Languages Act, insofar as it abolished or diminished language rights previously existing under s. 110 of the Northwest Territories Act, was incompatible with the Constitution of Canada and was inoperative; (2) an order under s. 24(1) of the Charter setting aside the charges against the accused; (3) a declaration under s. 52 of the Constitution Act that the Alberta Legislature was obliged to enact all of its Acts and Regulations in French, beginning with the Traffic Safety Act, the Use of Highways and Rules of Road Regulations, the Provincial Court Act and the Constitutional Notice Regulation; and (4) a declaration under s. 52 of the Constitution Act that all persons had a constitutionally guaranteed right to proceedings in French or English in criminal and civil matters before all Alberta courts, including the right to file all forms and documents in French and to be heard and understood in French by the courts, without an interpreter.

The Alberta Provincial Court, in a judgment reported (2008), 450 A.R. 204, held that the accused's constitutional language rights were violated and found them not guilty of the offences under the Traffic Safety Act. The court indicated that it did not have jurisdiction to grant the declarations sought. The Crown appealed the acquittal.

The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, in a judgment reported (2009), 476 A.R. 198, allowed the appeal. There was no obligation, constitutionally or otherwise presently, to publish the Traffic Safety Act, or its Regulations, or issue traffic tickets in French in Alberta. The accused's language rights were not violated. The court set aside the acquittals and found the accused guilty as charged. The court invited the parties back to deal with sanction. The accused applied for leave to appeal. The Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta requested intervener status on both the application and the appeal proper.

The Alberta Court of Appeal, per Watson, J.A., in a judgment reported (2010), 493 A.R. 200; 502 W.A.C. 200, allowed the application in part. The court certified the two following questions for consideration by a full panel: (a) must the laws of Alberta be printed and published in French and English; and (b) was the Languages Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. L-6, ultra vires or without effect insofar as it repealed a constitutional obligation by Alberta to print and publish its laws and regulations in French and in English? The court ruled that there was no need to recognize the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta as intervener on the application where the court actually heard it anyway. As for the appeal proper, the court referred the intervention question to another judge or a panel of the court. Finally, the court suspended the "obligation" of the accused to attend the sanction hearing. The accused (Caron) applied for a grant of litigation funding ("advance costs") by the Crown in Right of Alberta. His counsel suggested a cap of $80,000. L'Association Canadienne-Française de l'Alberta and l'Assemblée Communautaire Fransaskoise moved to be allowed to intervene in the appeal.

The Alberta Court of Appeal, per Côté, J.A., in a judgment reported (2011), 515 A.R. 304; 532 W.A.C. 304, ordered that the accused be given a loan of $11,600 at 3% interest compounded annually, repayable by instalments of $200 per month. The court allowed the motions for intervener status.

The Alberta Court of Appeal, in a judgment reported (2014), 569 A.R. 212; 606 W.A.C. 212, dismissed the appeals. The answer to both questions was "no". The accused appealed. The following two constitutional questions were stated: "1. Is the Languages Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. L-6, ultra vires or inoperative insofar as it abrogates a constitutional duty owed by Alberta to enact, print and publish its laws and regulations in English and in French in accordance, inter alia, with the Rupert's Land and North-Western Territory Order of June 23, 1870, R.S.C. 1985, App. II, No. 9? 2. If the answer to question 1 is affirmative, are the Traffic Safety Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. T-6, and any other laws and regulations that have not been enacted, printed and published by Alberta in English and French inoperative?".

The Supreme Court of Canada, Wagner and Côté, JJ., dissenting, dismissed the appeal. The court answered "no" to the first question. It was unnecessary to answer the second. There was no entrenched right to legislative bilingualism in Alberta. There was no constitutional constraint on the province of Alberta to decide in what language or languages it would enact its legislation.

Civil Rights - Topic 2703

Language - General principles - Interpretation of language rights legislation - [See Constitutional Law - Topic 1016 ].

Civil Rights - Topic 2761

Language - Bilingual legislation including translation of statutes - General - The Supreme Court of Canada held that there was no entrenched constitutional right to have all Alberta legislation enacted in English and French - The provincial Languages Act, which permitted enactment in English only, was not inoperative - Manitoba was added as a province under the Manitoba Act, 1870 - That Act expressly provided for legislative bilingualism - The remainder of what was then Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory, including what would later become Alberta, was annexed by the 1870 Rupert's Land and North-Western Territory Order - The Order did not expressly provide for legislative bilingualism - The Order incorporated an 1867 Address by the Canadian Parliament to the Imperial Parliament respecting annexation, which provided that the "legal rights of any corporation, company, or individual within the [annexed territory] shall be respected" - Language rights were explicitly addressed in the Constitution Act, 1867, "not by means of implied inclusion in a general term such as 'legal rights'" in the 1870 Order - The court held that "'legal rights' are and always have been distinct from language rights" - Had Parliament intended to accord constitutional protection to language rights in the annexed territories outside of Manitoba, it would have used explicit wording such as that found in the Manitoba Act, 1870 - A Royal Proclamation in 1869, which provided that "all your civil and religious rights and privileges will be respected" similarly did not entrench a right to bilingual legislation - The court noted that the issue of linguistic rights in Alberta was indistinguishable from its prior decision in 1988 (Mercure), where it found no entrenched constitutional right to have Saskatchewan legislation enacted in both English and French -See paragraphs 1 to 114.

Constitutional Law - Topic 1016

Interpretation of Constitution Act - General principles - Constitutional rights - The Supreme Court of Canada stated that "Constitutional documents should be interpreted in a large and liberal manner ... Language rights must be interpreted purposively and remedially, 'in a manner consistent with the preservation and development of official language communities in Canada' ... These important principles, however, do not undermine the primacy of the written text of the Constitution ... The Constitution ... 'should not be regarded as an empty vessel to be filled with whatever meaning we might wish from time to time'" - See paragraphs 35, 36.

Constitutional Law - Topic 7703

Language rights - General principles - Source of language rights - [See Civil Rights - Topic 2761 ].

Constitutional Law - Topic 7736

Language rights - Provincial legislation - Abrogation of language rights - [See Civil Rights - Topic 2761 ].

Equity - Topic 3611

Fiduciary or confidential relationships - General principles - Crown - The accused were charged with offences under the Traffic Safety Act - The trial judge acquitted the accused, finding that the provisions under which they were charged were inoperative because they were not printed and published in French as well as English - The summary conviction appeal judge allowed a Crown appeal - She held that neither the Royal Proclamation issued by the Governor General of Canada in 1869 nor the Order issued by the Imperial Parliament in 1870 had the effect of constitutionalizing language rights in what was now Alberta - The accused appealed - An intervener asserted that Alberta was bound by a fiduciary relationship with the province's French-speaking population - Under this fiduciary relationship, Alberta had a duty to uphold the right to legislative bilingualism enjoyed by the Metis and French-speaking peoples prior to annexation - The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals - To determine the existence of a fiduciary duty, there had to be: "(1) an undertaking by the alleged fiduciary to act in the best interests of the alleged beneficiary; (2) a defined person or class of persons vulnerable to a fiduciary's control; and (3) a legal or substantial practical interest of the beneficiary that stands to be adversely affected" - The intervener's argument failed at least the last part of the test - The adverse effect had to be with respect to a "specific private law interest to which a person has a pre-existing distinct and complete legal entitlement" - The Supreme Court of Canada had given examples of private law interests: "property rights, interests akin to property rights, and the type of fundamental human or personal interest that is implicated when the state assumes guardianship of a child or incompetent person" - Language rights were not akin to these private law interests and thus not subject to a fiduciary obligation - Moreover, the issue here was a narrow one - It was the right to the publication of legislation in French - In the context of a claim as a fiduciary, it was a demand for a benefit which the government, in the exercise of its discretion to allocate resources, had chosen not to do - There could be no fiduciary obligation on a government to create a law which gave that particular benefit to the accused - The Supreme Court of Canada agreed, finding that "a private law interest does not arise in the circumstances of this case" - It was not demonstrated that a fiduciary duty attached to the Crown in these circumstances - See paragraphs 104 to 107.

Cases Noticed:

Mercure v. Saskatchewan, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 234; 83 N.R. 81; 65 Sask.R. 1, refd to. [para. 4].

R. v. Mercure - see Mercure v. Saskatchewan.

Société des Acadiens du Nouveau-Brunswick Inc. and Association des conseillers scolaires francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick v. Minority Language School Board No. 50 and Association of Parents for Fairness in Education, Grand Falls District 50 Branch, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 549; 66 N.R. 173; 69 N.B.R.(2d) 271; 177 A.P.R. 271, refd to. [para. 5].

Reference Re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217; 228 N.R. 203, refd to. [para. 5].

Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General), [2013] 1 S.C.R. 623; 441 N.R. 209; 291 Man.R.(2d) 1; 570 W.A.C. 1; 2013 SCC 14, refd to. [para. 12].

Reference Re Same-Sex Marriage, [2004] 3 S.C.R. 698; 328 N.R. 1; 2004 SCC 79, refd to. [para. 35].

R. v. Beaulac (J.V.), [1999] 1 S.C.R. 768; 238 N.R. 131; 121 B.C.A.C. 227; 198 W.A.C. 227, refd to. [para. 35].

Reference Re Public Schools Act (Man.), [1993] 1 S.C.R. 839; 149 N.R. 241; 83 Man.R.(2d) 241; 36 W.A.C. 241, refd to. [para. 35].

Reference Re Compulsory Arbitration, [1987] 1 S.C.R. 313; 74 N.R. 99; 78 A.R. 1, refd to. [para. 36].

British Columbia (Attorney General) v. Canada (Attorney General), [1994] 2 S.C.R. 41; 166 N.R. 81; 44 B.C.A.C. 1; 71 W.A.C. 1, refd to. [para. 36].

R. v. Blais (E.L.J.), [2003] 2 S.C.R. 236; 308 N.R. 371; 180 Man.R.(2d) 3; 310 W.A.C. 3, refd to. [para. 37].

Forest v. Manitoba (Attorney General), [1979] 2 S.C.R. 1032; 30 N.R. 213, refd to. [para. 44].

Manitoba Language Rights Reference, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 721; 59 N.R. 321; 35 Man.R.(2d) 83, refd to. [para. 44].

R. v. Van der Peet (D.M.), [1996] 2 S.C.R. 507; 200 N.R. 1; 80 B.C.A.C. 81; 130 W.A.C. 81, refd to. [para. 61].

R. v. Marshall (D.J.), Jr., [1999] 3 S.C.R. 456; 246 N.R. 83; 178 N.S.R.(2d) 201; 549 A.P.R. 201, refd to. [para. 61].

R. v. Sappier (D.M.) et al. (2004), 273 N.B.R.(2d) 93; 717 A.P.R. 93; 2004 NBCA 56, refd to. [para. 61].

Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General) et al. (2007), 223 Man.R.(2d) 42; 2007 MBQB 293, refd to. [para. 64].

R. v. Marshall (S.F.) (2003), 218 N.S.R.(2d) 78; 687 A.P.R. 78; 2003 NSCA 105, refd to. [para. 96].

Elder Advocates of Alberta Society et al. v. Alberta et al., [2011] 2 S.C.R. 261; 416 N.R. 198; 499 A.R. 345; 514 W.A.C. 345; 2011 SCC 24, refd to. [para. 104].

Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests) et al., [2004] 3 S.C.R. 511; 327 N.R. 53; 206 B.C.A.C. 52; 338 W.A.C. 52; 2004 SCC 73, refd to. [para. 107].

R. v. Caron (G.), [2011] 1 S.C.R. 78; 411 N.R. 89; 499 A.R. 309; 514 W.A.C. 309; 2011 SCC 5, refd to. [para. 111].

British Columbia (Minister of Forests) v. Okanagan Indian Band et al., [2003] 3 S.C.R. 371; 313 N.R. 84; 189 B.C.A.C. 161; 309 W.A.C. 161; 2003 SCC 71, refd to. [para. 111].

Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique et al. v. British Columbia et al., [2013] 2 S.C.R. 774; 447 N.R. 204; 341 B.C.A.C. 1; 582 W.A.C. 1; 2013 SCC 42, refd to. [para. 112].

Desrochers et al. v. Industry Canada et al., [2009] 1 S.C.R. 194; 384 N.R. 50; 2009 SCC 8, refd to. [para. 112].

R. v. Paquette, [1990] 2 S.C.R. 1103; 137 N.R. 232; 125 A.R. 388; 14 W.A.C. 388, refd to. [para. 135].

Reference Re Supreme Court Act, [2014] 1 S.C.R. 433; 455 N.R. 202; 2014 SCC 41, refd to. [para. 139].

Delgumuukw et al. v. British Columbia et al., [1997] 3 S.C.R. 1010; 220 N.R. 161; 99 B.C.A.C. 161; 162 W.A.C. 161, refd to. [para. 139].

Ross River Dena Council v. Canada (Attorney General) (2013), 337 B.C.A.C. 299; 576 W.A.C. 299; 2013 YKCA 6, refd to. [para. 140].

General Motors Acceptance Corp. of Canada v. Perozni (1965), 52 W.W.R.(N.S.) 32 (Alta. Dist. Ct.), refd to. [para. 160].

Sinclair v. Mulligan (1886), 3 Man. L.R. 481 (Q.B.), affd. (1888), 5 Man. L.R. 17 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 162].

Manitoba Language Rights Reference (No. 2), [1992] 1 S.C.R. 212; 133 N.R. 88; 76 Man.R.(2d) 124, refd to. [para. 218].

Adler et al. v. Ontario et al., [1996] 3 S.C.R. 609; 204 N.R. 81; 95 O.A.C. 1, refd to. [para. 218].

Chaussure Brown's Inc. et al. v. Québec (Procureur général), [1988] 2 S.C.R. 712; 90 N.R. 84; 19 Q.A.C. 69, refd to. [para. 228].

Ford v. Quebec (Attorney General) - see Chaussure Brown's Inc. et al. v. Québec (Procureur général).

Southam Inc. v. Hunter et al., [1984] 2 S.C.R. 145; 55 N.R. 241; 55 A.R. 291, refd to. [para. 231].

R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295; 58 N.R. 81; 60 A.R. 161, refd to. [para. 231].

Reference Re Authority of Parliament in Relation to the Upper House, [1980] 1 S.C.R. 54; 30 N.R. 271, ref'd to. [para. 236].

William v. British Columbia et al., [2014] 2 S.C.R. 256; 459 N.R. 287; 356 B.C.A.C. 1; 610 W.A.C. 1; 2014 SCC 44, refd to. [para. 236].

Tsilhqot'in Nation v. British Columbia - see William v. British Columbia et al.

Statutes Noticed:

Constitution Act, 1867, sect. 133 [para. 11].

Counsel:

Roger J.F. Lepage, Francis P. Poulin and Romain Baudemont, for the appellant, Gilles Caron;

Sébastien Grammond, Allan Damer, Mark C. Power, François Larocque and Justin Dubois, for the appellant, Pierre Boutet;

Peter P. Taschuk, Q.C., Teresa R. Haykowsky, David D. Risling and Randy Steele, for the respondent;

Alain Préfontaine and Catherine A. Lawrence, for the intervener, the Attorney General of Canada;

Graeme G. Mitchell, Q.C., for the intervener, the Attorney General for Saskatchewan;

Kevin P. Feehan, Q.C., and Anna Loparco, for the interveners, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association, Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord No. 2 and Denis Lefebvre;

Mark C. Power, Justin Dubois and François Larocque, for the intervener, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta;

Kevin Shaar and Christine Ruest Norrena, for the intervener, the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada;

Roger J.F. Lepage and Francis P. Poulin, for the intervener, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise;

Nicolas M. Rouleau, for the intervener, Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law inc.

Solicitors of Record:

Miller Thomson, Regina, Saskatchewan, for the appellant, Gilles Caron;

University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario; Mintz Law, Edmonton; Power Law, Ottawa, Ontario, for the appellant, Pierre Boutet;

McLennan Ross, Edmonton, Alberta; Alberta Justice, Edmonton, Alberta, for the respondent;

Attorney General of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, for the intervener, the Attorney General of Canada;

Attorney General for Saskatchewan, Regina, Saskatchewan, for the intervener, the Attorney General for Saskatchewan;

Dentons Canada, Edmonton, Alberta, for the interveners, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association, Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord No. 2 and Denis Lefebvre;

Power Law, Vancouver, British Columbia and Ottawa, Ontario, for the intervener, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta;

Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Gatineau, Quebec, for the intervener, the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada;

Miller Thomson, Regina, Saskatchewan, for the intervener, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise;

Nicolas M. Rouleau, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law inc.

This appeal was heard on February 13, 2015, before McLachlin, C.J.C., Abella, Rothstein, Cromwell, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Wagner, Gascon and Côté, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

On November 20, 2015, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada was delivered in both official languages and the following opinions were filed:

Cromwell and Karakatsanis, JJ. (McLachlin, C.J.C., Rothstein, Moldaver and Gascon, JJ., concurring) - see paragraphs 1 to 114;

Wagner and Côté, JJ. (Abella, J., concurring), dissenting - see paragraphs 115 to 244.

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