Thursday, April 01, 2010

The West Wants Affirmative Action

Why did the Tories vote en masse against Bill C-232, which requires that Supreme Court nominees be bilingual?
I'm sure there are other, less silly reasons.

From here.

29 comments:

RuralSandi said...

Laurie Hawn isn't the brightest penny in the jar - he was probably told to say that.

Skinny Dipper said...

I would be voting against the bill also.

While bilingualism is an asset, it is one of many assets that makes people skillful.

I do have some points about required bilingualism. It would disqualify a vast majority of the legal profession from being a supreme court judge. It would impede those who practise law in parts of the country where there is little to no daily bilingualism. Judges in Western Canada would be hampered from becoming a Supreme Court judge.

Also, who decides if someone is bilingual or not? What level of bilingualism should one have? Functional or fluent?

若侑承合 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Some said...

ugh Red Dawn Hawn...

R. G. Harvie said...

Skinny..

Exactly right.

Some great jurists, particularly from Western Canada, don't speak a lick of French.

Better to be politically correct, suppose, than to assure that we have the best minds possible holding the reigns over the rule of law over Canada.

But then again, the Supreme Court of Canada over the last three decades, has already shown itself to be growing more inept with each passing day, so, could it get worse?

Not likely.

KC said...

Agreed with Skinny and Harvie. I remember it being really difficult in law school to recruit the requisite number of bilingual speakers for the Laskin Moot (bilingual moot). I'm sure you'll be able to find bilingual judges from the west but you would have to dig deeper into the pool to find them.

Ti-Guy said...

Waaa! Waaa! Learn French, crybabies. Frankly, a lot of you Anglais should start thinking about learning English. I'm looking at you, Harvie.

Some of you are moaning as if this were disqualifying you personally from being appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Yeah, like that's going to happen.

The government is bilingual at the federal level. Get used to it.

Besides, some studies have indicated that bilingual people are less susceptible to Azheimers. It might not be a bad idea to have a requirement that guarantees only the sharpest minds will be on that court, especially since the appointees are generally of advanced age.

Lastly, in this day and age, if you don't speak a second language, you're not educated.

I'm still pissed off about the big deal everyone made about Stéphane Dion's English by the way. When it comes to this issue, the rationalisations are always so relative, aren't they?

crf said...

Learning french won't make you better able to interpret the law. All arguments from lawyers and evidence can be translated.

So there is no reason to require judges to be bilingual, since unilingual judges are right now accommodated without any serious problems that I'm aware of.

And there are strikes against it. There are very few candidates for high court. Reasons to further limit this pool should be very compelling.

Holly Stick said...

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who was born and educated in Alberta, doesn't have a problem with bilingualism:

http://www.scc-csc.gc.ca/court-cour/ju/spe-dis/bm2008-02-06-eng.asp

Reality Bites said...

Seems to me there's a fair percentage of the Western Canada Conservative caucus that's bilingual.

The vast majority of the legal profession isn't qualified to be on the Supreme Court. It should be for the best of the best. And these days, that certainly includes being bilingual. If you don't care enough to ensure you're qualified to rise to the top of your profession, you shouldn't.

No one is still stupid enough to think they're entitled to be PM without being functionally bilingual.

Reality Bites said...

Seems to me there's a fair percentage of the Western Canada Conservative caucus that's bilingual.

The vast majority of the legal profession isn't qualified to be on the Supreme Court. It should be for the best of the best. And these days, that certainly includes being bilingual. If you don't care enough to ensure you're qualified to rise to the top of your profession, you shouldn't.

No one is still stupid enough to think they're entitled to be PM without being functionally bilingual.

Holly Stick said...

McLachlin studied modern languages, "...graduated in 1968 at the top of her law class, then launched her career. She was called to the bar in two provinces (Alberta and British Columbia), practised law at three different firms, polished her French language skills, and earned a tenured professorship at ubc..."

http://www.walrusmagazine.com/articles/2009.05-law-the-mclachlin-group/2/

In an interview: "...When I first became a judge, I heard that French lessons were offered and I immediately signed up. Having studied some French in university, I thought I knew the language pretty well and told this to the instructor. Well, she tested me and I failed! I did work at it and now can converse in and understand French. I have also taught myself German. My family background is German, although we did not speak German at home. Nonetheless, I think I have an ear for it and am becoming more fluent and able to read in German..."

http://www.tabaret.uottawa.ca/article_e_257.html

Ti-Guy said...

Learning french won't make you better able to interpret the law.

I think the ability to process language is probably the most important skill for a lawyer. The very act of "interpreting the law" points to what is of prime importance to the profession.

Although I was actually just trying to start a fight with my last comment (I think this move is far more political than anything else, not that I believe it's intended to shut out Westerners from being appointed to the SSC), RB makes a good point; people highly motivated to become among the best of their professions in Canada, particularly those that are so tied to academics are not only bilingual, but end up taking care of that long before it becomes a prerequisite.

Lastly, the more languages you learn, the easier it is. I've seen immigrants, who quite often speak more than one language on top of English before they come to this country, pick up French like it's no big deal.

I'm sure the level of bilingualism isn't going to be that much of a barrier; decent comprehension and a reasonable ability to carry on an everyday conservation is probably good enough.

Alison said...

Bit of a wedge issue?

I'd like to know how this will affect the NDP'S competitiveness west of Manitoba. They tend to be in direct contention with the CPC there, though this looks like an attempt to increase their QC holdings.

Interesting move on their part all the same.

Ti-Guy said...

In any case, all Canadians should think about becoming fluent in a second language. If anything, it would desensitize Conservatives from the sting they seem to get when anyone uses the word "stupid," which in every other language...IN THE WORLD...is perfectly acceptable. Just not North American English.

Holly Stick said...

Like Kevin Kline:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhnY28h1QrI

KC said...

I dont think I ever framed is as a 'poor abused western lawyers' issues. I just dont see it as good policy. We haven't had such a requirement for the entire history of the country and we've done just fine. There are no indiciations that the jurisprudence has suffered due to unilinguists on the court.

And Ti-Guy, while I agree with you that learning another language is useful (although there are lots of useful intellectual pursuits that one can embark on in lieu thereof) learning "another language" doesnt cut it. That second language has to be english or french.

Ti-Guy said...

although there are lots of useful intellectual pursuits that one can embark on in lieu thereof)

Like what?

In any case, most intellectuals of the type we're thinking of consider second languages as the tools required to further their pursuits.

In a normal discussion, I'd consider any second language with a body of documentation relevant to the Western World equally worthwhile. English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, Italian. But North American anglophones don't bother learning any of those for the most part either. And since this is Canada, you can do worse when looking for a useful language than French, which, despite its decline relative to English, is still the second-most widely spoken second-language in the World.

KC said...

Learning a language is a huge task especially if you are already an adult. I've tried and given up several times to move beyond very rudimentary French. It just seems to me that you get more bang for your buck learning more about history, literature, science, geography, etc. etc. than a second language. There will always be sacrafices from not knowing languages (and very few of us know more than a handful of the worlds languages in any event) but its a pretty time intensive endeavour.

And since this is Canada, you can do worse when looking for a useful language than French, which, despite its decline relative to English, is still the second-most widely spoken second-language in the World.

Actually that is not correct. I try not to cite wikipedia but in this case its probably reliable. It lists a variety of estimates for where french places in terms of number of speakers and it isnt near the top of any.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_total_number_of_speakers

R. G. Harvie said...

TG..I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

fin

Sir Gallahad said...

Ti-Guy

I believe you made a point about the language skills of Harvie.

Point well made.

Sir Gallahad said...

Laurie Hawn, is your typical Alberta rube.

All judges who sit on the Supreme Court of Canada, should be fluently bilingual.

We are not limiting the talent pool.

A judge would limit themself, by not being well versed in the two official languages.

Any judge who has aspirations of sitting on the SCOC, should be bilingual.

The same rule should apply for any federal court judge.

I am so fed up with the provincialism, and the small and narrow minds of the conservative party.

Laurie Hawn, and the CPC are nothing but a disgrace, to Canada.

Ti-Guy said...

Actually that is not correct. I try not to cite wikipedia but in this case its probably reliable. It lists a variety of estimates for where french places in terms of number of speakers and it isnt near the top of any.

Next time, read my comment and your own link more closely. I said "second-language" speakers, and the link you provide actually lists French in first place among second-language speakers.

Ti-Guy said...

I believe you made a point about the language skills of Harvie.

Believe it or not, Sir Gallahad, Rob and I actually get along.

Gayle said...

"But then again, the Supreme Court of Canada over the last three decades, has already shown itself to be growing more inept with each passing day, so, could it get worse?"

Well this is a profoundly stupid statement. Maybe you could back this one up with a couple facts.

That said, I actually agree the requirement for bilingualism for an appointment is wrong.

It is all well and good to demand lawyers learn French, but there is very little need for legal French in Alberta - and no doubt the rest of the western provinces.

You can be a great legal scholar without understanding French. You can be fluently bilingual and still be a stupid lawyer.

Which do you think is best for our courts?

Ti-Guy said...

...but there is very little need for legal French in Alberta - and no doubt the rest of the western provinces.

How Western Canadians can put up with Albertans speaking for them all the time continues to be a mystery to me.

There may be no need for "legal French" (whatever that means, since it's a constitutional right for Canadians to be tried in the official language of their choice) in Western Canada, Gayle, but we're talking about the Supreme Court of Canada, not Alberta.

Sir Gallahad said...

For christ's sake.

We are talking about the SCOC, not some provincial court in Alberta.

We are a bilingual nation.

All judges who sit on the SCOC, should be fluently bilingual.

Anyone who has aspiartions, of sitting on the SCOC, or any federal court in Canada, should have enough brains in thier head, to know they should learn French, or English.

This is provincialism at it's best.

Western Canadians should be insulted by Hawn, because he is basically telling you, that you are uneducated rubes, who are too stupid to learn French.

What the CPC did on the bill C-32 vote, was reprehensible.

Some people who comment on boards, need to pull their head out of their ass, and grow up.

Gayle said...

Maybe you guys are not aware that judges are appointed from all the provinces. That means people who practice law in Alberta are appointed to the SCC too. By convention there is at least one SCC justice from one of the prairie provinces at a given time, and by convention that position is rotated through the three prairie provinces. Perhaps you can stop seeing sinister pro-Alberta/anti-Canada plots every time an Albertan mentions the situation in Alberta in their posts. Just because the Reform party started here does not make all Albertans evil. It is hypocritical for you to complain about generalizing when you are generalizing in your criticism. Just fuck off already.

Legal French is what Hawn was explaining in the video in BCL's subsequent post. I know one can be fluently bilingual and still need to be taught legal French. I know this because one of my friends, who has been fluently bilingual all his life, had to take a year long course in legal French in order to be considered fluently bilingual for his position with the Department of Justice.

I am not interested in our SCC being filled with people ambitious enough to study legal French as a means to qualify them for an appointment. I am interested in it being filled by people who are qualified to sit as one of the judges in the highest court of the land, because the decisions made at that court will impact all of us in one form or another. It may be that person has never studied French, and learning the language to the degree required to sit on the SCC may be too much of a hurdle at that stage of his or her life. Who knows, and who cares.

I know there are a few lawyers in Edmonton who speak French fluently, and who are called upon to represent people who have requested their right to be tried in French. The fact they can speak French does not mean they are good lawyers. I know of some people who prefered a trial in English and using a French language translator to having their trial in French because the choice of counsel was so limited.

I want our Court to be filled with the best legal minds in Canada. That is the only qualification I think is necessary.

Gayle said...

Let me put it another way - if the goal is to have only fluently bilingual judges on the SCC, the way to accomplish that is to make it a requirement that all law school applicants be fluent in both official languages, and then teach law in both official languages.