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This article was published 4/5/2017 (1604 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg lawyer is launching a legal challenge over language rights after he says an RCMP officer who pulled him over could not speak to him in French.
Antoine Hacault has pleaded not guilty to a speeding ticket he received last June while driving on Highway 59 in St-Pierre-Jolys. He’s arguing his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and under the Official Languages Act were violated because the RCMP didn’t provide him service in his mother tongue and filled out his traffic ticket in English. His trial is set for Aug. 22 — 14 months after the ticket was issued.
Hacault, who has practised law for more than 30 years and has fought for Franco-Manitobans’ language rights at the Supreme Court level, said he respects the RCMP but believes the Mounties have a duty to offer bilingual service.
"If you have a constitutional right to something and a right under a pretty important piece of legislation — the Official Languages Act — I would expect that government services honour the law," he said. "I’m just hopeful that government services through the RCMP, that they take measures to continue to honour their language rights and obligations. They’re law enforcement authorities. I’m hoping as law enforcement authorities, they themselves will follow the law."
The RCMP officer who ticketed Hacault was from Selkirk traffic services, which doesn’t have the same language requirements as the St-Pierre-Jolys detachment, which has been officially designated as bilingual, a spokeswoman for Manitoba RCMP said.
"The RCMP is obligated to provide bilingual officers at certain detachments throughout Manitoba. The RCMP also provides bilingual (English and French) service to anyone who requests that service. If someone requests services in French and the attending officer does not speak French, then we always have someone in our dispatch centre who can be brought on through the police radio or officer’s cellphone to speak French. Also, officers can request another officer to assist. In Manitoba, there are a number of different languages spoken, and the RCMP will always try and find someone to translate," RCMP spokeswoman Tara Seel wrote in an email to the Free Press.
"If someone has a language preference, we encourage them to make that known to the officer so that arrangements can be made to receive their information in the official language of their choice."
Hacault’s traffic-ticket trial is scheduled to proceed in French, a request he said resulted in further delay bringing the case to trial.
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Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.