Canada

Conservatives, francophone group reach deal on court challenges

The federal government has reached an agreement with a national francophone group over the court challenges program, which helps minority groups fight for their rights, Heritage Minister Josée Verner told the House of Commons on Monday.

The federal government has reached an agreement with a national francophone group over the court challenges program, which helps minority groups fight for their rights, Heritage Minister Josée Verner told the House of Commons on Monday.

During question period, Verner said that an agreement had been reached between the government and the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada, but that both parties agreed to keep the terms confidential until a later date.

"When possible, it will be made public," she said.

In 2006, the federation took the government to court to have the program reinstated. Serge Quinty, a spokesman for the group, declined to comment on the deal until after a phone conference between the judge and the two parties occurred later Monday.

The court challenges program set aside $5 million a year to pay the legal fees of groups that wanted to challenge government decisions that affected their rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was cancelled by the Conservative government in 2006 as part of a package of federal budget cuts.

MP Yvon Godin asked the House on Monday whether the government had negotiated a watered-down agreement that would reinstate half of the program funds and whether the program would exclude other minority groups, such as disabled people, women and homosexuals.

"Our government is very proud of the agreement that we have arrived at with the federation," Verner said, adding that the government will announce details in the near future.

now