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Language rights at the heart of revamped Court Challenges Program

The return of the Court Challenges Program (CCP) is "extremely welcome," Brampton lawyer-linguist Suzanne Deliscar tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Canadian Lawyer magazine recently reported that the University of Ottawa was selected to administer the updated federal program following its cancellation back in 2006 during former prime minister Stephen Harper’s first term in office.

In its new format, the CCP will provide financial assistance to Canadians who want to start or take part in test cases involving official language rights and human rights issues that have yet to be heard by a court.      

Of the CPP’s $5-million annual budget, $1.5 million has been allocated exclusively to the clarification of language rights.

“There is a great amount of confusion as to what rights people have with regard to services in either of the official languages,” says Deliscar, principal of Deliscar Professional Corporation, a law firm that offers services in English, French and Spanish.

“Many people have no idea, so it’s important to be able to inform the general public, and also the legal profession, about these issues,” she adds.

Deliscar says the choice of the University of Ottawa made sense, considering its bilingual status. It was the successful bidder, with competition from a number of other facilities, and has promised to create a dedicated centre to support the work of two expert panels that make the CCP’s funding decisions.

Richard Clément, a professor at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute at UOttawa, will chair the new centre’s administration committee.

“This is a joint effort, a multidisciplinary effort, on the part of the university faculty of law and the institute working together,” he told Canadian Lawyer, adding that a number of details need to be ironed out before the centre’s scheduled launch in 2018.

They are on the lookout for a small staff of four or five people, including a director, two lawyers with expertise in language rights and human rights, plus some clerical help.

In a statement, Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she was “determined” to implement a modernized CCP.

"The result will be a justice system that better protects and clarifies official language and human rights guaranteed under Canada's Constitution and the Official Languages Act by giving Canadians access to funding,” she said.

According to the federal government, an “open, transparent and merit-based process” will be launched in the coming months to select members for the expert panels that will assess funding applications and allocate available money for court cases that meet the program’s criteria.

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