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The Justice Building on Queen Street in Fredericton. Image: Brad Perry

Lieutenant-governor doesn’t have to be bilingual: appeal court

By Brad Perry May 23, 2024 | 4:15 PM

New Brunswick’s lieutenant-governor is not required to speak both English and French.

That is according to a decision released on Thursday by New Brunswick’s Court of Appeal.

The decision overturns a lower court ruling that found appointing a unilingual lieutenant-governor violated the Charter.

Members of the Acadian Society of New Brunswick launched the court challenge after Brenda Murphy was appointed to the role by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The society argued that appointing a unilingual person to the role violated sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedom.

In April 2022, then Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Tracey DeWare sided with the society in a 52-page decision.

DeWare wrote that the lieutenant-governor in New Brunswick, the country’s only officially bilingual province, must be able to perform all aspects of the role in both English and French.

But the justice stopped short of calling the appointment by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unconstitutional.

“A declaration that the Order-in-Council appointing Brenda-Louise Murphy was unconstitutional and of no force and effect would render ever law, decree, or appointment executed by Lieutenant-Governor Murphy likewise of no force and effect,” said the ruling.

“This Court is very mindful of the potential chaos which could ensue following an order declaring Lieutenant-Governor Murphy’s appointment as unconstitutional and therefore null and void.”

DeWare said it would be up to the federal government to determine what actions to take going forward.

“The timing and the extent of that action I leave to the executive arm of government to determine,” she wrote.

The society said in a statement Thursday that it will apply to the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal the decision by New Brunswick’s Court of Appeal.