Justice in Official Languages - Newsletter
(No06 | September 2012)

Training: Acting for the future

Why does the Department of Justice Canada regularly speak of official language training in the area of justice? While “justice” has traditionally been associated with judges and lawyers, it is first and foremost an area that offers services to the Canadian population, requiring several levels of interaction. The field of criminal law, for example, requires the involvement of many players at various stages of a trial: police services are called on at the charge and detention stage; judges, lawyers, clerks, registrars, stenographers, interpreters and bailiffs take part in the judicial process; and correctional services and parole officers are involved at the detention or incarceration and follow-up stages.

According to 2006 Census data, out of a total of 128,050Footnote 1 people working in the area of justice, 31.4 percent indicated that they have the ability to carry on a conversation in both official languages. There is, however, a considerable difference between being able to carry on a conversation in one’s second language and being able to offer justice services in both official languages. Justice is a complex and technical field, and stakeholders must be able to use and master the legal vocabulary in its practical application.

Justice training efforts are specifically aimed at providing the legal terminology needed for making a concrete contribution to the improvement of the justice system’s ability to offer services in both official languages. Since the Department of Justice is committed to respecting shared jurisdiction with provinces and territories when it comes to the administration of justice, it has mainly focused its efforts on criminal law. Sections 530 to 533.1 of the Criminal Code recognize the right of the accused to be tried in the official language of his or her choice, which requires having access to institutionally bilingual criminal courts. This in turn depends on there being an active offer of services in both official languages, without the public having to take additional steps. Efforts are also being made in other areas to help those who need to develop their legal vocabulary, particularly in the area of family law. In this respect, training in legal terminology provides justice personnel with the opportunity to learn and master legal discourse in both official languages in order to better serve the public.

In addition to on-the-job training opportunities available to those already working in the area of justice, the Department has expanded its horizons to include training for individuals interested in pursuing law-related careers. In response to the first strategy proposed in the Canada-Wide Analysis of Official Language Training Needs in the Area of Justice, which encouraged law faculties in majority-language environments to play a greater role in students’ language training, three Canadian universities have developed training projects specifically aimed at the practice of law in French.

Picture of Students

Thanks to the Programme prédroit pour les étudiants immigrants admis à la Faculté de droit [Pre-law program intended for immigrant students admitted to the Faculty of Law], developed by the French Common Law Program of the University of Ottawa, new Francophone or francophile immigrants can take part in an introductory program on the Canadian legal and political systems, as well as Canada’s socio-economic and university realities. In addition to offering French legal training, this program helps improve the offer of French services and increases students’ chances of success.

The program called Renforcement de la capacité de la faculté de droit de l’Université du Manitoba d’offrir aux étudiants en droit une formation en français [Building French language education at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law] offers mandatory and optional courses in French designed to help students master legal vocabulary. A partnership between the University, the Centre canadien de français juridique, and the Association des juristes d’expression française du Manitoba will allow for teaching tools to be developed. In addition to raising awareness about language rights among bilingual and Francophone students, this project gives them the opportunity to learn and use legal terminology, starting in their first year of law school.

The University of Alberta’s Campus Saint-Jean has created the Initiative de formation pour l’amélioration de l’accès à la justice en Alberta [Training Initiative for the Improvement of Access to Justice in Alberta], a multi-faceted program that offers both a university course on the Canadian justice system and on careers in the area of justice and a language training certificate. The project also plans on offering a course for professionals already working in the area of justice and working predominantly in English in order to help them maintain and develop their existing knowledge of French. The Campus St-Jean is working in partnership with the Alberta Bar Association and the University of Alberta Law Faculty to offer defence attorneys some opportunities to develop their legal knowledge in French. Finally, this project has a very interesting component: the development of a community justice centre offering legal information, support and referral services to Canadians.

Thanks to innovative proposals from its many partners, Justice Canada is helping to expand the type of activities offered as well as the amount and frequency of training opportunities. Thus, to the list of training activities offered to stakeholders in the justice system, we can now add the opportunities offered to law students as future justice professionals. Not only do these projects meet the objectives of the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future, but they also meet the French-language training needs of minority Francophone communities. Training activities allow learners to go from having a basic knowledge of a language to mastering legal discourse in both official languages.

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