Ford v. Quebec (A.G.)
In the 1988 Ford v. Quebec (AG)
decision, the Supreme Court of Canada
invalidated the Charter of the French Language
, also known as Bill 101. One of the reasons it gave for invalidating it was that it was not a reasonable limitation under sec. 9 of the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms and under art. 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The appeal, taken from the province of Quebec was the consolidation of many cases in which merchants who had tried to exhibit English language or bilingual English and French language signs had been fined and ordered to remove the signs by the Office de la Langue Francaise. The Supreme Court upheld the decisions of the Quebec Superior Court and the Court of Appeals in that the signs could not be prohibited by the law as written.
While this case is complex and many arguments were made because it was one of the first cases to established Canadian Charter jurisprudence, its arguments are interesting to review.
The below material is taken from the headnote of the official Supreme Court reporter. It has been significantly modified. There is judicial authority in Canada that a judge's decisions cannot be copyrighted. See: Jockey Club v. Standen (1985) 8 C.P.R.(3d) 283, 288 (B.C.C.A.).
SUMMARY OF SOME OF THE REASONS IN THE DECISION
For the complete decision: Ford v. Quebec (A.G.) (1988) 2 S.C.R.
- The court held that the The "freedom of expression" guaranteed by s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter and s. 3 of the Quebec Charter includes the freedom to express oneself in the language of one's choice. Language is intimately related to the form and content of expression; there cannot be true freedom of expression by means of language if one is prohibited from using the language of one's choice. Language is not merely a means or medium of expression; it colours the content and meaning of expression; is a means by which a people may express its cultural identity; is the means by which one expresses one's personal identity and sense of individuality. "freedom of expression" includes the freedom to express oneself in the language of one's choice. Such a principle does not undermine the express or specific guarantees of language rights in s. 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and ss. 16 to 23 of the Canadian Charter.
- Commercial expression -- is expression within the meaning of both s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter and s. 3 of the Quebec Charter. Commercial expression, like political expression, is one of the forms of expression that is deserving of constitutional protection. It serves individual and societal values in a free and democratic society. Commercial expression, which protects listeners and speakers, plays a role in enabling individuals to make informed economic choices, being an aspect of self-fulfillment and personal autonomy. Conclusion: (1) s. 58 infringes the freedom of expression guaranteed by s. 3 of the Quebec Charter and (2) s. 69 infringes the guaranteed freedom of expression under both s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter and s. 3 of the Quebec Charter.
- Requiring the predominant display of the French language, even its marked predominance, would be proportional to the goal of promoting and maintaining a French visage linguistique in Quebec and therefore justified under s. 9.1 of the Quebec Charter and s. 1 of the Canadian Charter the requirement of the exclusive use of French has not been so justified. French could be required in addition to any other language or it could be required to have greater visibility than that accorded to other languages. Accordingly, the limit imposed on freedom of expression by s. 58 of the Charter of the French Language is not justified under s. 9.1 of the Quebec Charter, and the limit imposed on freedom of expression by s. 69 of the Charter of the French Language is not justified under either s. 1 of the Canadian Charter or s. 9.1 of the Quebec Charter.