...de Graham Fraser:
I am delighted to be here with you this morning. I am particularly thankful to Janet Muller and to the organizing committee for inviting me to address you in Belfast, on my way to Dublin where I will take part in the Canadian Bar Association’s Canadian Legal Conference over the next few days. I have very fond memories of my first visit here in November 2006 at POBAL’s invitation, shortly after I was appointed Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada.
Today, I have been asked to speak about Canadian best practices in terms of linguistic equality in the administration of justice. Access to justice in both official languages in Canada is indeed a matter of prime importance. The right to use English and French before the courts reflects the profound will of Canadians across the country to live in a society in which dignity and respect for one another are key values.
Before I talk about our Canadian experience, however, I would like to mention that I have read the recent High Court’s ruling denying the right to use the Irish language before the Courts.
Mindful of the limits of my jurisdiction, I nevertheless wish to express that, on a personal level, I would have liked today’s meeting with you to have been under different circumstances—where I could have celebrated with you a ruling favouring and advancing the use of the Irish language in the administration of justice.
I certainly know from our experience in Canada that progress can sometimes be slow when trying to achieve such goals. This is particularly true in cases as fundamental and vital to a country as strengthening linguistic identity and defining rights for the use of minority languages in aspects of public life. I certainly appreciate the efforts of those who stood up to have their language rights recognized, and those who represented the Irish community as it took one step towards linguistic equality in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland...