Politics

Greens reject leadership candidate who refuses to take a French test

Green Party leadership hopeful Najib Jutt says he's refusing to take a French language test required by the party — which has rejected his application as a result.

Ineligible leadership candidate Najib Jutt plans to appeal the decision

Najib Jutt posted a statement on his website saying he will “not be participating in any language testing by a party that professes to stand for the principles of respect for diversity and social justice.” (Submitted/ Canadian Press/ Fred Chartrand)

Green Party leadership hopeful Najib Jutt says he's refusing to take a French language test required by the party — which has rejected his application as a result.

Jutt, who worked on former leader Annamie Paul's election campaign, posted a statement on his website saying he will "not be participating in any language testing by a party that professes to stand for the principles of respect for diversity and social justice." He said he plans to appeal the party's rejection of his candidacy.

In the post, he calls the language requirement "the most egregious rule of the contest" and "an artificial barrier created to, unintentionally or not, move the goalposts for many equity-deserving leadership hopefuls."

"No former leader or interim leader of the Green Party of Canada has been required to take such a test," he wrote.

"The requirement to be proficient in both official languages is not a constitutional or legislative requirement for a party leader or prime minister. It isn't even a convention."

Prime ministers have been able to communicate in both of Canada's two official languages since the current officeholder's father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was elected in 1968.

While Jutt said he is fluent in other languages and is not opposed to learning French on the job, he doesn't think it should be a requirement for federal party leadership. He said making it a requirement amounts to a barrier for people of colour who don't speak both of Canada's official languages.

"It seems to contravene the party's own work toward justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion," Jutt said. "This arbitrary rule constitutes the very opposite of inclusion."

According to the rules of the leadership contest, applicants must demonstrate proficiency in English and French at an advanced level — what's known by the European Common Framework of Reference for Languages as the "B2 level". Indigenous applicants are exempt from this requirement.

Jutt told CBC News he has been paying for French courses himself and might be able to meet the language requirement, but he won't submit to the exam out of principle.

The Green Party of Canada did not respond to CBC's request for comment. In a letter the party sent to Jutt that was viewed by CBC, officials stated he was "ineligible."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Thurton

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Correspondent

David Thurton is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He covers daily politics in the nation’s capital and specializes in environment and energy policy. Born in Canada but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, he’s moved around more times than he can count. He’s worked for CBC in several provinces and territories, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

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