Focus On

CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS - Legal rights - Right to an interpreter - Official languages of Canada

Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 8:27 AM  

Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
Appeal by Industrielle Alliance (IA) from a decision allowing Mazraani’s appeal from a Tax Court of Canada (TCC) decision finding that he was an independent contractor and was therefore not eligible for employment insurance benefits. Mazraani was hired by IA in April 2012 as a financial advisor. After Mazraani’s employment was terminated, the Canada Revenue Agency determined that he did not occupy insurable employment within the meaning of s. 5(1)(a) of the Employment Insurance Act. The Minister subsequently confirmed the decision. Mazraani appealed to the TCC. Mazraani, who was self-represented, submitted his notice of appeal in English. The Minister submitted her reply in English. IA submitted its notice of intervention in French. On the second day of the hearing, language issues arose when counsel for IA indicated that his first witness would be testifying in French. Mazraani indicated that he would need an interpreter. Rather than adjourn the hearing, the judge granted a break for counsel to devise a compromise, which he accepted. During the examination of another witness, who wished to testify in French, the judge interrupted and asked that the examination be conducted in English. Ultimately, the judge overturned the decision and found that Mazraani was engage in insurable employment. IA appealed, arguing that there were multiple violations of the official language rights of witnesses and its counsel during the hearing before the TCC.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The judge failed to uphold his positive duty to ensure that witnesses were heard in the official language of their choice. Another violation of the language rights resulted from the judge’s request that other witnesses, who could speak English do so although they expressed a desire to testify in French. Each request to speak in the official language of a witness’ choice was treated by the judge as a request for accommodation, as opposed to the exercise of protected official language rights. It was not open to the judge to seek a shortcut around the official language rights of those involved in the proceedings, in an attempt to find a pragmatic solution. The judge's failure to exercise his duty to ensure that the official language rights at issue were protected not only resulted in their violation, but further resulted in delays that could have otherwise been avoided by an adjournment to secure proper interpretation services. Pragmatism did not trump the duty to respect the official language rights of all in the course of judicial proceedings. Accordingly, the judgment below was quashed and the matter was remitted to the TCC for a new hearing before a different judge.

Mazraani v. Canada (Minister of National Revenue - M.N.R.), [2017] F.C.J. No. 374, Federal Court of Appeal, J. Gauthier, R. Boivin and Y. de Montigny JJ.A., April 20, 2017. Digest No. TLD-May152017010