Court rules judge can hear case that alleges appointment of Mary Simon violates constitutional rules for bilingualism
A group of Quebecers have cleared a major hurdle in their efforts to have Canada’s governor general removed because she does not speak French.
A Quebec superior court judge ruled that it could hear the case, which asserts that Queen Elizabeth II’s 2021 appointment of Mary Simon – Canada’s first Indigenous governor general – violates constitutional rules for bilingualism.
The ruling came after Canada’s attorney general tried to assert that only the federal court had jurisdiction in this case.
As governor general, Simon is a representative of the crown in Canada.
In her June decision, Quebec superior court judge Catherine Piché wrote that the crown is not a federal office, but rather represents the sovereign’s presence in Canada. Therefore, Piché argued, the federal court did not have sole jurisdiction in the matter.
Simon is Inuk and speaks English and Inuktitut, but not French. She grew up in northern Quebec, where she attended an English-language federal day school. Day schools were similar to residential schools in their efforts to assimilate Indigenous youth.
The lawsuit was launched by two Quebecers’ rights associations, including Justice pour le Québec, which was led by Frédéric Bastien until his death earlier this year.
Bastien was no stranger to the courts and human rights commissions.
In 2020, he filed a complaint after the Canadian Human Rights Commission failed to provide a French version of a federal challenge to Quebec’s secularism law.
Two years later, Bastien filed a human rights complaint for racism after being denied a job opportunity as a white man. The role was only open to women, Indigenous people, people with disabilities and people of colour.
The lawyer representing the groups in the governor general case told La Presse on Wednesday that the lawsuit was not an attack on Simon, but rather a “question of principle” and respect for Canada’s constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Quebec news outlets called Piché’s decision a “posthumous victory” for Bastien.
The case is expected to return to court in the fall.
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