Update: see previous post and page – December 6, 2009 P.E.I Defendant demands trial in French to fight 8 Parking Tickets, see page “Right to Trial in French”
In December 2003, Albertan Francophone truck driver Gilles Caron, received a $54.00 traffic ticket in Alberta, for the offence of making an improper left hand turn. He requested a trial in french and received one, it took 89 days. He argued that the government should have issued the ticket in french, as well as english.
He requested and obtained over $300,000 in funding from the courts, to aid in his defence, when he ran out of money, in a series of cost orders.
The Province of Alberta appealed all funding orders from the courts, up to the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Alberta government’s appeal, ruling that the Alberta government was wrong, and that the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Alberta had jurisdiction to order the payments that they did in Gilles Caron’s case. The Supreme Court of Canada, unanimously ruled on Friday, February 4, 2011 that the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta had the authority to order funding for Gilles Caron’s defence and agreed that he should receive approximately $120,000.00 to cover his legal costs.
The trial judge ( L.J. Wenden Juge de la Cour provinciale de l’Alberta) acquitted Mr. Caron because his language rights had been violated. The trial in the Provincial Court of Alberta extended over 89 days. Twelve witnesses gave oral evidence, and 93 exhibits were filed. The hearing transcript is over 9,000 pages long. In response to the respondent’s request, and because of the Provincial Court of Alberta’s practice of granting
trials in French upon request, the trial was conducted entirely in French. Counsel addressed the Court in French. When unilingual Anglophone witnesses testified, simultaneous interpretation in French was provided. The Information against Caron was in both French and English. Pleadings were in French. The judgments of the bilingual Provincial Court Judge were delivered in French.
The Crown (the Appellant) is appealing that judgment of the Provincial Court of Alberta, which concluded that section 3 of the Languages Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. L-6, infringed on the respondent’s language rights.
The respondent Caron was charged with violating subsection 34(2) of the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation, Alta. Reg. 304/2002, a regulation made under the Traffic Safety Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. T-6. The respondent Boutet was charged with violating subsection 160(1) and section 115(2)(p) of the Traffic Safety Act.
Prohibited operation of vehicles, etc.
115(2) A person shall not do any of the following:
(p) drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed that is greater than
the maximum speed limit established or prescribed for
that highway under
(i) this Act,
(ii) the Government Property Traffic Act (Canada), or
(iii) the National Parks Act (Canada);
160(1) If a vehicle is involved in an offence referred to in section
157 or a bylaw, the owner of that vehicle is guilty of an offence.
The Provincial Court of Alberta declared these provisions to be of no force or effect with respect to the offences committed since, in the Court’s opinion, they violated the respondent’s language rights. Accordingly, the respondent was acquitted. This appeal is therefore an appeal against the acquittal of his summary conviction proceedings.
The Appeal was heard by the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta (Citation: R. v. Caron, 2009 ABQB 745) on on January 19-23 and 26-27, 2009 and Honourable Madame Justice K.M. Eidsvik J.C.Q.B.A. rendered a decision on December 16, 2009. The court allowed the Crown’s appeal and set aside the verdict entered in respect of Gilles Caron and found him guilty as charged and sentenced him to the fines prescribed by the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation, A.R. 304/2002 and the Traffic Safety Act, R.S.A. c. T-6.
On August 2, 2006 (R. c. c. Caron, 2006 ABPC 278: texte de la décision du 2 août 2006 du juge Leo Wenden, de la Cour provinciale de l’Alberta. Caron, 2006 ABPC 278) Judge LJ Wenden ordered that the defendant, Gilles Caron’s motion, for compensation in accordance with para. 24 (1) of the Charter, as a result of his Charter rights being breached was granted in the amount of 15 $ 949.65. On November 6, 2006 Judge Wenden issued an order for the Alberta government to pay costs and expenses of counsel and the costs for researchers and expert witnesses. As expected, the Crown is appealed both decisions.
The Crown appealed the decision of interim costs to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta (see R. c. c. Caron, 2007 ABQB 632 (CanLII) Caron, 2007 ABQB 632 (CanLII)). The Judge, Ouellette made a decision in favour of Caron and dismissed the Crown’s appeal on October 19, 2007. The Court ordered the Government of Alberta to pay to interim costs of $91,046.29 U.S. dollars plus GST. The Crown appealed this decision.
In response this decision, the Crown applied for a for a stay of the Judge’s order to pay the interim costs of $91,046.29 pending appeal. This application was heard on January 15, 2008 in front of Judge J.A. Ritter in the Court of Appeal of Alberta (see R. c. c. Caron , 2008 ABCA 111 Caron, 2008 ABCA 11). The Crown had not agreed with Justice Ouellette’s award of approximately $94,000 for Caron’s legal costs, and asked the court to stay the funding order pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Okanagan. Caron had been able to request and receive over $300,000 in a series of cost orders, but they had all been set aside by Justice Marceau in 2007. Judge Ritter ruled that the Crown did not meet the test (The three parts of the test are: serious question to be tried, irreparable harm, and balance of convenience) for a stay pending appeal and ruled in Caron’s favour. The Crown appealed this decision.
This decision was appealed by the Crown to the Court of Appeal of Alberta (see R. c. c. Caron, 2009 ABCA 34 (CanLII) Caron, 2009 ABCA 34 (CanLII) ). These appeals concern two interimfunding orders granted by a Court of Queen’s Bench chambers judge. The funding is for expert and legal fees incurred by the respondent, Gilles Caron, in preparing his defence to an alleged violation of s. 34(2) of the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation, Alta. Reg. 304/2002, for failing to safely make a lefthand turn. Caron did not dispute the facts underlying the offence; rather, he contended that the ticket was invalid because it was not in French. The decision of the court: The chambers judge determined that Okanagan funding was available in this case. The Supreme Court has directed that absent legal error, such determinations are entitled to deference. I perceive no legal error in the chambers judge’s analysis. This appeal is dismissed.The Court ruled in Caron’s favour and the Crown is appealing this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
SUPREME COURT OF CANADA
Citation: R. v. Caron, 2011 SCC 5
Date: 20110204 (February 4, 2011)
R. v. Caron
Her Majesty The Queen in Right of the Province of Alberta – Appellant
Gilles Caron – Respondent
The judgment of McLachlin C.J. and Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Charron, Rothstein and Cromwell JJ. was delivered by Binnie J.
This is what the Supreme Court was ruling on:
On Appeal from the Court of Appeal for Alberta
Courts — Jurisdiction — Interim costs — Serious constitutional issue arising in provincial court— Superior court making order for interim costs in provincial court proceeding — Whether superior court has inherent jurisdiction to grant interim costs in litigation taking place in the provincial court — If so, whether criteria for an interim costs order were met.
Costs — Interim costs — Whether superior court has inherent jurisdiction to grant interim costs in litigation taking place in the provincial court — If so, whether criteria for an interim costs order were met.
In the course of a routine prosecution for a minor traffic offence, the accused C claimed the proceedings were a nullity because the court documents were uniquely in English. He insisted on his right to use French “in proceedings before the courts” of Alberta as guaranteed in 1886 by the North‑West Territories Act, R.S.C. 1886, c. 50, and the Royal Proclamation of 1869, arguing that the province could not abrogate French language rights and that the Alberta Languages Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. L‑6, which purported to do so, was therefore unconstitutional.
At issue in this case are interim cost orders made by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench — a superior court — to fund an accused defending the regulatory prosecution in the provincial court. The appellant Crown says that the superior court had no jurisdiction to make such an interim costs order and that even if it did have such jurisdiction the interim costs order was improper in any event.
The only issue before our Court at this time is two orders for interim costs made by the Court of Queen’s Bench. Mr. Caron’s application came late in his trial before the provincial court when, after about 18 months of on-again-off-again hearings, the Crown filed in reply what Mr. Caron’s counsel described as a mountain of historical evidence. Mr. Caron — having run out of money — established to the satisfaction of the provincial court that he was unable to finance the rebuttal evidence necessary to complete the trial unless he were provided with interim costs. The provincial court made such an order. The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench (see R. v. Caron, 2007 ABQB 262), setting aside the provincial court order as being made without jurisdiction, nevertheless held that it could (and did) make the interim costs orders itself. It is the validity of the Queen’s Bench orders for interim funding of the provincial court defence that is now before us.
APPEAL from a judgment of the Alberta Court of Appeal (Hunt, Ritter and Rowbotham JJ.A.), 2009 ABCA 34, 1 Alta. L.R. (5th) 199, 446 A.R. 362,  6 W.W.R. 438, 241 C.C.C. (3d) 296, 185 C.R.R. (2d) 9, 71 C.P.C. (6th) 319,  A.J. No. 70 (QL), 2009 CarswellAlta 94, affirming a judgment of Ouellette J., 2007 ABQB 632, 84 Alta. L.R. (4th) 146, 424 A.R. 377,  3 W.W.R. 628,  A.J. No. 1162 (QL), 2007 CarswellAlta 1413. Appeal dismissed.
Mr. Gilles Caron, an Albertan born and educated in French in Quebec, his receptive English is rudimentary, his expressive English is virtually nonexistent.
Mr. Caron’s language rights have been established by Parliament in section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and in ss. 7 and14 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and by the Legislature of Alberta in s. 4(1)(b) of the Languages Act.
The right to understand what is going on in court proceedings in which one is involved is more than a language right, it is a right of natural justice: Societe des Acadiens du Nouveau-Brunswick Inc.
In the course of a routine prosecution for a minor traffic offence — a wrongful left turn — the accused, Mr. Caron, claimed the proceedings were a nullity because the court documents were uniquely in English. He insisted that he has the right to use French in “proceedings before the courts” of Alberta as guaranteed in 1886 by the North-West Territories Act, R.S.C. 1886, c. 50, and the Royal Proclamation of 1869. His position is that French language rights may not now be abrogated by the province, and that the Alberta Languages Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. L-6, which purported to do so, is therefore unconstitutional.
This is not the first time that the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta has heard from Mr. Gilles Caron asserting his legal rights. He went before J.B. Veit J.C.Q.B.A. on June 28, 2007 (see Caron v. Alberta (Human Rights and Citizenship Commission), 2007 ABQB 525) requesting that the Director of Alberta’s Human Rights and Citizenship Commission be ordered to pay for interpretation costs associated with his Judicial Review of a decision of Alberta’s Human Rights and Citizenship Commission.
J.B. Veit J.C.Q.B.A. characterized the issue as follows:
 Mr. Caron, an Albertan born and educated in French in Quebec, asks the court to order the respondent Director of the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission to pay for English to French interpreter services for the upcoming judicial review of a decision of the Director. It has
previously been decided that Mr. Caron requires an interpreter for the judicial review: his receptive English is rudimentary, his expressive English is virtually nonexistent and the hearing process is relatively complicated. The subject of the judicial review is the Director’s denial of Mr. Caron’s claim of language-based discrimination in his former job as a labourer for the respondent City of Edmonton.
 The Director and the City of Edmonton acknowledge Mr. Caron’s right to an interpreter. However, they state that he must pay for those services if he wishes to have them.
 The motion is allowed: the Government of Alberta, as represented in these proceedings by the Director, shall pay for interpreter services for the judicial review hearing.
 Mr. Caron’s language rights have been established by Parliament in section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and in ss. 7 and14 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and by the Legislature of Alberta
in s. 4(1)(b) of the Languages Act.
 The right to understand what is going on in court proceedings in which one is involved is more than a language right, it is a right of natural justice: Societe des Acadiens du Nouveau-Brunswick Inc.
 Mr. Caron has the right to be fully present at the judicial review: Reale.
 That right, along with constitutional language rights, cannot be made effective unless Mr. Caron can follow the proceedings; in order to do that, he requires an interpreter.
 Moreover, since Mr. Caron has a constitutional right to express himself in French during the judicial review, it is necessary to have an official version of his submissions: it would be entirely
inappropriate for the respondents each to have their own interpreter and for the court to have yet a third interpreter. An interpreter must be impartial: Tran. If a party or witness were entitled, or required, to provide their own interpreter, that person could not be characterized as “independent”.
 This decision is limited to proceedings in the Court of Queen’s Bench and to proceedings in which the Government is a party. Although the principles may have broader application, this decision does not intend to address those issues.
Section 133 of the Constitution Act,1867, reads:
133. Either the English or the French Language may be used by any Person in the Debates of the Houses of the Parliament of Canada and of the Houses of the Legislature of Quebec; and both those
Languages shall be used in the respective Records and Journals of those Houses; and either of those languages may be used by any Person or in any Pleading or Process in or issuing from any Court of Canada (Emphasis added)
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes two constitutional rights that have relevance here:
7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
14. A party or witness in any proceedings who does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an interpreter.
See Alberta’s Languages Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. L-6: Language in the courts:
4(1) Any person may use English or French in oral communication in proceedings before the following courts:
(a) the Court of Appeal of Alberta;
(b) the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta;
(c) repealed RSA 2000 c16(Supp) s50;
(d) The Provincial Court of Alberta.