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Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Commons Debates

Hon. Serge Joyal (Secretary of State): Mr. Speaker "I would like to reply to the Hon. Member for Notre-Dame-de-Grace (Mr. Allmand) in his mother tongue.

   I cannot more fully agree with him.

Indeed, when the Hon. Member for Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier) asked the same question only a week ago, emphasizing at that time the special situation in which Franco-Ontarians find themselves concerning application of Section 23 of the Canada Clause in the case of language minorities in Ontario, I rose in the House to tell him that he had my full support. I was at the workshop at the same time as the Hon. Member for Notre-Dame-de-Grace last saturday. I was also there Sunday morning when the resolution received unanimous support of the assembly, and I must say, Mr. Speaker, that since then, I have discussed the matter with my colleague, the Hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. MacGuigan), and that we have assessed the conditions under which some assistance might be granted. I note that many of the views expressed by the Hon. Member for Notre-Dame-de-Grace are shared by the Hon. Minister of Justice and myself. With your permission I should like to give you a very brief summary of the conditions under which financial assistance could be extended to certain groups of citizens in relation to the application of Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, namely the right for official language minorities to attend English schools in Quebec and French schools in other provinces. Mr. Speaker, these conditions would be subject to the following criteria. First, it would have to be a prima facie case with a valid legal basis, supported with serious arguments. The second criteria for offering financial assistance is that the result would have to benefit not an individual, but a group of citizens so that the advantage sought would not be an individual benefit, but a collective one.

  A third criterion was mentioned by the Hon. Member in the course of his speech, namely, a case or cases that would set precedents of interpretation for the concepts contained in Section 23 of the Charter, which are still somewhat vague. For instance, the concept and I quote:

           When the number warrants-
  What does that mean: where the number warrants? Does it mean twenty-two or eighteen parents claiming their right to have a French school, or twelve parents in an isolated community? The concept remains vague, and I think the courts would do well to study the matter and provide a specific answer.

Another example, still in the same area, is the concept of educatlonal facillities referred to In Section 23. What is an educational facility? This is another concept that could usefully be examined by the courts. Other criteria that could also be applied include that of non-duplication in a bill on the same subject that might be debated in a provincial legislative assembly. For instance, I do not think it would make sense to take legal action at a time when a province is about to enact the objectives of Section 23 in its own legislature. Another criterion is that such ac.tion should basically be concerned with the objectives of Section 23 and should not be used as a delaying tactic or otherwise affect the credibility of the courts. These are a few criteria which could be considered basic criteria. I can inform you, Mr. Speaker, and I am saying this also for the benefit of the Hon. Member for Notre-Dame-de- Grace-Lachine East (Mr. Almond), that I have promised the House to report on the subject, at the request of the Hon. Member for Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Lachine East and especially of the member for Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier), by the end of this year, so that the problems encountered in Manitoba will not recur elsewhere in the years to come. Consequently, I can give the Hon. Member the assurance that his request is being given careful consideration by the Government, and by the end of this year, I shall be in a postion to report to the Hon. Member and to the House on the Government's decision, which I hope will be favourable.