Nova Scotia

Supreme Court hears Halifax language case

The Supreme Court of Canada has reserved its decision after a hearing Wednesday into a French-language rights case from Halifax.

The Supreme Court of Canada has reserved its decision on a French-language rights case from Halifax following a hearing Wednesday.

The highest court in the country will determine whether the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission can hear a discrimination complaint against the Halifax Regional Municipality, even though the policy that led to this complaint has changed.

Lucien Comeau turned to the commission years eight years ago to complain about a lack of supplementary funding for French-language schools.

At the time, the money from ratepayers went to schools run by the Halifax Regional School Board, not the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial.

Comeau, an Acadian, claims that amounted to discrimination. Though he was paying taxes, none of the money for supplementary funding went to the schools his children attended.

The policy at the centre of his complaint changed in 2006. French-language schools have been getting a share of supplementary funding ever since.

The municipality argues there's no need for a human rights inquiry because the funding policy has changed.

HRM won a court case in 2009 to prevent an inquiry. However, the decision was later overturned by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. The municipality appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.

Michel Doucet represented Comeau at a hearing in Ottawa on Wednesday.

"If the decision is favourable …  it would mean easier access to justice for ordinary citizens in Canada, and certainly Mr. Comeau would have a ground-breaking decision," said Doucet.

He said it could be at least five months before there's a decision.