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Language - Official Languages Act (OLA)

. Canada (Commissioner of Official Languages) v. Canada (Employment and Social Development)

In Canada (Commissioner of Official Languages) v. Canada (Employment and Social Development) (Fed CA, 2022) the Federal Court of Appeal stated basics of language law interpretation in the context of the federal Official Languages Act:
[110] At the outset of his analysis, the trial judge reviewed the principles of interpretation applicable to language rights (Reasons, paras. 46 to 53). He pointed out that the OLA is a fundamental law that is closely linked to the values and rights set out in the Constitution and, in particular, in subsections 20(1) and 16(1) of the Charter, which deal with language of service and language of work.

[111] Therefore, "“in all cases”" language rights must be interpreted "“purposively, in a manner consistent with the preservation and development of official language communities”" (Reasons, para. 48, citing Beaulac, para. 25). That said, the modern approach to statutory interpretation, which requires that the words of an Act be read in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, its object and the intention of Parliament, continues to apply even with respect to language rights (Reasons, para. 52, citing Caron v. Alberta, 2015 SCC 56, [2015] 3 S.C.R. 511, para. 38; Thibodeau v. Air Canada, 2014 SCC 67, [2014] 3 S.C.R. 340, para. 112; Lavigne v. Canada (Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages), 2002 SCC 53, [2002] 2 S.C.R. 773 [Lavigne SCC], para. 25; Tran v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2017 SCC 50, [2017] 2 S.C.R. 289 and Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27, 154 D.L.R. (4th) 193, para. 21).

[112] The appellants do not question the principles of interpretation so described. Only the trial judge’s application of these principles to the legal provisions at issue is challenged on appeal.
Paras 113-164 are a review of parts of the Official Languages Act, with case commentary.


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