The launch of the Law Practice Program in 2014 marked one of the most significant changes to the licensing process in Ontario in decades. So it was no surprise that all eyes were on the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Professional Development & Competence Committee last fall as members considered the future of the pilot project. They recommended ending it – however after receiving more than 130 submissions from lawyers, law students and organizations, Convocation voted to extend the project for another two years.
The move was especially significant to members of the francophone bar. Many celebrated it as a sign of the law society’s commitment to meet the distinct needs of Ontario’s French-speaking community. Indeed, even the PD&C report that recommended ending the program acknowledged the unique role and importance of the French LPP and recognized the principle of linguistic dualism. The report further noted that the LPP had enhanced competence in the delivery of French-language services and the practice of law in the language.
This week, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear an appeal relating to the contempt of court order made against the Quebec student activist, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. The legal dispute at issue arose in the context of the 2012 student protest which received international attention. Lead by two student groups, l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante and la Fédération étudiante collègiale du Québec with broad support from the general public, the movement commonly referred to the ‘’Printemps érable’’ (Maple Spring) was triggered by former Premier Jean Charest’s proposal to increase tuition by 75 per cent over the course of five years. Hundreds of thousands of Quebecers from across the province took to the streets, wearing le carré rouge and banging casseroles to protect what is widely regarded in the province as a fundamentally core value: universally accessible post-secondary education.
In the course of the protest, another university student, Jean-François Morasse, obtained an interlocutory injunction to enable him to cross the picket line and attend class. When asked to comment on the injunction during a television interview on RDI, Radio-Canada’s news network, Nadeau-Dubois expressed his disappointment regarding the judicialization of what he considered to be a political protest and stressed that students had the right to strike. The Quebec Superior Court found Nadeau-Dubois guilty of contempt of court since his statement could be taken as an invitation to disregard the court’s injunction and, accordingly, sentenced him to community service. The decision was overturned by the Quebec Court of Appeal which emphasized in obiter the importance of respecting the freedom of expression in accordance with both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. This argument will again be reiterated before the Supreme Court by the two intervenors that were granted leave to make oral submissions.