Supreme Court of Canada issues seminal ruling on judicial bias

01 May 2015

Yukon Francophone School Board, Education Area #23 v. Yukon (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 25

On May 14, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada, in a seminal ruling on judicial bias, unanimously upheld the findings of the Yukon Court of Appeal with respect to the conduct of the trial judge in a French-language education rights case.

In 2009 the Yukon Francophone School Board sued the Yukon government for what it claimed were deficiencies in the provision of minority language education. After a two-month trial, the judge ruled in the Board's favour on most issues.

In a 2014 judgment, the Court of Appeal, citing numerous "troubling and problematic" instances over the course of the trial, found that the trial judge's conduct raised a reasonable apprehension of bias, and ordered a new trial with respect to almost all issues.

In its decision, the Supreme Court upheld the findings of the Court of Appeal with respect to the conduct of the trial judge and confirmed the decision to order a new trial. On one of the substantive legal issues in relation to the interpretation of the Yukon Languages Act, the Supreme Court ruled that this issue should also be the subject of a new trial rather than dismissing that aspect of the claim. On the second substantive issue -- namely whether the French-language school board had a unilateral right to admit non-rights holders into the French-language programme -- the Supreme Court upheld the conclusion of the Court of Appeal that no such right existed.

The firm was counsel to the Yukon government throughout these proceedings with a team that included Maxime Faille, François Baril, Guy Régimbald and Chantal Tourigny.


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