Acadian group launches legal challenge over unilingual lieutenant-governor
Lt.-Gov. Brenda Murphy says she's determined to improve her French-language skills
The New Brunswick Acadian Society has filed an application with the Court of Queen's Bench to challenge the recent appointment of Lt.-Gov. Brenda Murphy, who speaks only English.
"We want the federal government to ensure that on its list of federal appointments that require proficiency in both official languages, that' lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick' be on that list," said Ali Chiasson, the executive director of the New Brunswick Acadian Society.
New Brunswick is the only province that has two official languages, French and English.
Only 11 positions within the federal government must have a bilingual representative, according to the Language Skills Act. Chiasson said the application is calling for the position of lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick be the 12th.
The application also calls for the cancellation of Murphy's appointment, but in an interview with CBC News, Chiasson said that isn't the goal.
"Obviously, our objective here is to get the regulation changed, to get the profile changed on the federal side. This is not about Ms. Murphy.
"This is about a process and the fact that when you appoint a lieutenant-governor for New Brunswick that there's no language profile."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Gov. Gen. Julie Payette are listed as the respondents in the application, but they have not filed responses with the court.
The application says Trudeau didn't respect his obligations under the linguistic responsibilities section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when he recommended Murphy as the lieutenant-governor and later appointed her.
Murphy was sworn in Sept. 8. A few days later, her office confirmed she wasn't ready to do any French interviews but added that she was learning French.
In a news release, Murphy's office said she is aware of the Acadian organization's decision to take action, and she acknowledges the importance of communicating in both official languages.
"I remain committed to improving my French-language skills over the course of my mandate so that I can serve both the French and English communities well," Murphy said in the release.
According to the New Brunswick Acadian Society, the charter requires that the person appointed lieutenant-governor speak and understand both official languages to grant royal assent to both versions of laws.
The application also cited the Official Languages Act of Canada, which obliges the federal government to provide services in both English and French. The New Brunswick government is bound by the provincial Official Languages Act to provide services in both languages.
"New Brunswick has a unique linguistic regime," Chiasson said.
"We think it's time the federal government take into consideration the unique regime that exists in New Brunswick and that the federal government … takes proper steps and actions to ensure a linguistic element is an intrinsic part that encompasses the profile of which they base a nomination."
- An earlier version of this story stated the Official Languages Act of Canada obliges the New Brunswick government to provide services in both English and French. In fact, the act applies to the federal government and not the provincial government.Dec 23, 2019 7:51 PM AT
With files from Radio-Canada
To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.
Become a CBC Account Holder
Join the conversation Create account
Already have an account?