Lawsuit looms
Money for translation would come from feds, not GNWT: Legare

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 08/99) - The Federation Franco-TeNOise's lawsuit to try to force the GNWT to provide more documents in French is charging ahead.

"The lawsuit will be formally filed in the coming weeks, by the end of October if everything goes well," said federation president Andre Legare.

"We won't be in front of a judge in October. That may take until next summer."

Legare said the core of the federation's case is Article 14 of the Official Languages Act.

This section says any member of the public has the right to communicate and to receive available services from any head or central office of an institution of the legislative assembly or the government of the NWT in both English and French.

"Services include not only speaking to someone in French but also being able to read documents in French," Legare said.

"It should be provided in print as well. Basically, we want the act as it is written to be applied."

NWT Language commissioner, Judy Tutcho, said last month that the government is following the letter of the law arguing only acts, records and journals are required to be translated.

"We can't realistically publish every single document in French, number one, for the resources (it would cost)" said Tutcho at the time.

But though it appears the courts will determine what documents must be translated, Legare said the argument that it costs money is false.

He said in 1984, when the Official Languages Act was signed, the federal and territorial governments signed a parallel agreement that the federal government would pick up the tab to provide French services and programs.

"There's no financial trouble per se or cost to the GNWT," Legare said.

"As far as aboriginal languages go, that's different, but for the French language it doesn't cost them any additional money."

Also, on the issue of money, Legare said francophones who object to the federation taking the GNWT to court because it will cost money have nothing to fear because all costs will be covered by a federal government dispute program.

"The money we will have to spend to go to court does not come from the francophone community per se," he said.

"It doesn't come from any funds provided to the francophone community for various activities so we're not taking anything away as it relates to francophone activities."

Legare said the core of the lawsuit is that the territories do not control their own constitutions.

"They don't have what we call internal sovereignty like the provinces do. They were born from an act of Parliament and as such, they should be defined as institutions. If they are institutions they are subject to the Charter of Rights and sections that say the official languages of Canada should apply. That would include the territories," he said.