Tax court judge violated witnesses’ language rights

Posted on: July 10th, 2017 by Suzanne Deliscar 1 Comment

Federally-appointed judges would benefit from education on the linguistic rights of litigants and witnesses appearing before them, says Brampton lawyer-linguist Suzanne Deliscar.

In a recent case, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned a Tax Court decision after finding the judge violated the official language rights of an insurance company’s lawyer and its witnesses by ignoring their wishes to testify and communicate in French because they were bilingual, while another party in the case spoke only English fluently.

“I think judges, especially at the federal level, have to be educated about the rights of litigants to speak whichever of the official languages they wish. If interpreters are needed, then they ought to be provided,” Deliscar tells

“It’s not something you can reach some compromise on,” adds the principal of Deliscar Professional Corporation, a law firm that offers services in English, French and Spanish.

She says some judges may have risen to the bench after long careers in private practice where language rights were never an issue, especially if they practised in a primarily unilingual jurisdiction.

“It’s not as if these issues come up every day, and they may never have crossed a judge’s mind,” Delsicar says.

The tax case involved a self-represented individual appealing the minister’s assessment of his employment with an insurance company during the year 2012. His former employer intervened, and several representatives were called to testify in court.

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