R v. Mercure, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 234

Presentation of the Judgment

This Supreme Court judgement allows the province of Saskatchewan to establish a new language framework. After this decision, Manitoba will no longer have the same language requirements and will adopt the Saskatchewan Language Act.


The Facts

André Mercure contests a speeding ticket written only in English. He asks the Tribunal for all the procedural rules in French. Moreover, he requests that the Legislative Assembly of the province provide him with a French version of the laws pertaining to his accusation.


Question at bar (regarding language rights)

“This case raises several important questions: whether a French-speaking person accused of a provincial quasi-criminal offence under a Saskatchewan statute has the right to use French at his trial; whether he has the right to have the trial conducted in that language; whether the statutes of that province are required to be published in both English and French; whether such rights are constitutionally entrenched; and the content of any such rights.”



The Supreme Court mentions that there is no law by the Saskatchewan’s provincial legislature dealing with these issues; nor is there any express provision in the province’s constituent Act, the Saskatchewan Act. Therefore, the Court must decide if section 110 of the North-West Territories Act is applicable to Saskatchewan even with the existence of the Saskatchewan Act. This provision stipulates that “[e]ither the English or the French language may be used by any person in the debates of the Legislative Assembly of the Territories and in the proceedings before the courts”. Both languages are also used in the Assembly’s records and journals. Also, “[a]ll ordinances made under the Act shall be printed in both languages”. Saskatchewan’s territory has not always been part of the Canadian territory and this makes the use of section 110 of the North-West Territories Act problematic. The Supreme Court nevertheless rules that said section applies to the province. The province therefore does have has responsibilities with regard to the use of French and English. However, the rights granted by section 110 are not enshrined in the Canadian Constitution. Thus, Saskatchewan has the power to modify its constitution though ordinary legislation.

This content has been updated on 7 April 2016 at 15 h 35 min.