Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise again in the House this evening to discuss my bill, Bill C-203, an act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages).
I previously asked my hon. colleague a question about whether the Liberals plan to pass this bill, which calls for all Supreme Court justices to be bilingual. This summer, the Prime Minister of Canada announced a process for appointing justices to the Supreme Court. This process is to be open and transparent and will require justices to be bilingual, which is excellent news.
The NDP has been calling for this since 2008. It has really been a key issue for us. My colleague, the former member for Acadie—Bathurst, Yvon Godin, introduced two separate bills on this since 2008. Then in 2010, he introduced another bill regarding a bilingual requirement for justices, and the Liberals voted in favour of it.
Unfortunately, however, after that bill went to the Senate, the Conservatives let it die on the Order Paper. We were really disappointed, which is why we are introducing it again.
Now that the Liberals are in power, we expected that they would support and pass the bill introduced to ensure the bilingualism of judges.
Everyone supports this bill, including the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, the Barreau du Québec, and Jean-Marc Fournier, the Quebec minister responsible for Canadian relations, who said, “Enshrining bilingualism in law is necessary”.
Does everyone believe that the bilingualism of Supreme Court judges must be enshrined in law? No, the Liberals do not. That is really sad. We are asking the Liberals why they do not want to support a bill to ensure the bilingualism of Supreme Court justices in perpetuity.
Previous Conservative governments appointed unilingual English judges and this created serious problems with respect to the interpretation of certain rulings. However, under the Official Languages Act, the official languages have equality in fact. This equality in fact must exist in the highest court as well.
What are the Liberals talking about to avoid voting? They are talking about the Nadon case. Let us discuss this case, then. I asked jurists in this Parliament about it. I asked them whether the Nadon case prevented bilingualism from being one of the criterion for the appointment of judges. The answer was no, the Nadon case did not prevent it. In fact, to determine whether it is constitutional or not, we would have to ask the Supreme Court for an opinion.
For that reason I asked the Liberals why they are refusing to ask for a Supreme Court opinion. If they have opinions that run counter to those of the House of Commons jurists, they should provide them. To date, we have not seen any legal opinions to the effect that bilingualism as an appointment criterion for Supreme Court justices is unconstitutional.
If the Liberals have any such opinions, they should produce them.