Quebec bar: all laws passed by National Assembly are unconstitutional

The Quebec Bar Association says the laws the National Assembly has been passing are actually unconstitutional - all of them - because the translation into English is done only after the fact.

The Bar argues that because the National Assembly's translators only go to work once a bill is passed into law, MNAs never get a chance to study the English text before voting.  

Because Canada is a bilingual country, it's natural that laws would be written in one language before being translated into the other. But according to constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, it's the timing of the translation that is at the heart of the matter. 

"In Quebec it’s very frequent for laws to be drafted first by the MP or person in charge in French, because most of them are French," Mr. Grey explained. "But there is nothing wrong with it, unless the other version doesn’t exist until after the adoption."

Furthermore, the bar points out that sometimes there are significant differences between the French and English versions of a law. La Presse reports on one discrepancy in the Highway Safety Code, to do with the rule about cellphone use behind the wheel.  The French version says a violation occurs when the cellphone is held in the hand. The English version suggests a driver can be fined for using a cellphone even if not holding the device in hand.  

Mr. Grey believes it's unrealistic to ask that laws be crafted in English and French simultaneously. But he says the translations need to be done early in order for the bills to be valid. 

"Most of the laws are going to be crafted in one language and then translated into another," Mr. Grey said. "The question is: 'is the translated part there before the adoption?' If not then it’s invalid. Nobody requires that the creative process be simultaneously bilingual, and it’s a silly thing to require."

The Bar is recommending that the province be given 18 months to set up a new arrangement for translation.