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Crown Disciplined for Ignoring Canadian's Language Rights

source:未知 Editor:supermanTime:2015-05-30 12:27

Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Paul Rouleau has ordered the federal Crown to cover the costs of a prolonged preliminary hearing for a defendant in a cocaine trafficking trial because of various language rights violations. Christian Munkonda was one of eight people charged in 2010 with offenses related to allegations of cocaine trafficking. Six of the accused chose to be tried in English. Munkonda and another defendant, who was eventually discharged, chose to have their preliminary hearing in French. The Criminal Code requires that a judge must order a proceeding to be held in both of Canada's official languages under certain conditions, such as when there are two or more accused who speak either English or French. The code also stipulates the provision of a bilingual judge and prosecutor and that all court documents need to be in both official languages, including transcripts at the preliminary hearing. Rouleau determined the prosecution did not respect the appellant's language rights, and the treatment it provided to the accused who exercised their right to have their preliminary hearing held in English was superior to the treatment it afforded to the accused who chose French. Among the examples of ignored bilingual mandates the Court of Appeal cited was the filing of more than 1,000 conversations in four different languages into the court record, but only in English. "The original version of the texts of conversations in French was not included in the transcripts," Rouleau notes. Moreover, two of the three federal prosecutors were unilingual, as was the court reporter transcribing the testimony. "In conceptual terms, a bilingual trial or preliminary inquiry is a merger of a proceeding in French and a proceeding in English," Rouleau explains. "To the extent possible and provided that it is reasonable, the language rights of each of the accused must be respected." Jean Richer, who represents Munkonda, says the ruling is very clear about the requirement to respect the statutory language rights of defendants. "The court is sending a message. Stop ignoring these sections. They are mandatory," says Richer, who adds that they are not "ideals" but provisions that must be followed.

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