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11/27/2009
Canada: Appeals Court Cancels Non-Bilingual Speed Camera Tickets
The Manitoba, Canada Court of Appeal overturns photo radar tickets that were not fully bilingual.

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The Manitoba, Canada Court of Appeal on Monday upheld a decision overturning speed camera tickets issued in French-speaking parts of the province on the grounds that the citations were not fully bilingual. Renald Remillard and five fellow motorists had contested notices of violation that they received more than four years ago in the Riel section of Winnipeg.

Although the main text of tickets in question was written in both French and English, the variable elements on the form were not. The vehicle description, the nature of the alleged offense and the time, date and location where it took place were presented only in English. Remillard insisted that these sections on the citation violated the Winnipeg Charter provision mandating that, "All notices... and other documents sent or given by the city to persons resident in the designated area shall be in both official languages." A trial judge agreed, canceling the citations. The province's highest court found the lower court's reasoning sound.

"In my opinion, [the trial judge] applied the rules of interpretation set forth by the Supreme Court of Canada in language matters, he interpreted the Charter in a manner consistent with its underlying objects, and he correctly decided to quash the offense notices," Appeals Court Justice Richard J. Chartier wrote.

At trial, city officials claimed that the bulk of the information on the citation was available in French and that this was sufficient. Prosecutors also offered to re-file the citations in a fully bilingual format. The trial court rejected the move on the grounds that the city was "trivializing" its own "expansive and clearly enunciated objectives" with respect to language equality because it had made no effort to comply fully with the law before the court challenge. The appeals court agreed.

"In this case, I am of the opinion that had the trial judge simply amended the offense notices, he would have been acknowledging that the city's linguistic obligations towards the residents of Riel constituted nothing more than an accommodation and that deficiencies would be tolerated," Chartier wrote. "Such a decision would undermine the language rights of the residents of Riel and diminish the importance of the city's language obligations."

The decision only applies to speed camera tickets issued in the wards of St. Boniface, St. Vital and St. Norbert. A copy of the English version of the decision is available in a 75k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Queen v. Hebert, et al. (Court of Appeal of Manitoba, Canada, 11/26/2009)

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