MONTREAL -- A disagreement between the parties over the bilingualism of judges at the Court of Quebec is not at all a question of judicial independence, says Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette.

During a news conference in Montreal on Wednesday, the justice minister and attorney general of Quebec was asked to comment on the disagreement between him and the chief justice of the Court of Quebec regarding the bilingualism required of judges.

News outlet La Presse had revealed that the minister refused to require bilingualism for all judges of this court, regardless of the courthouse where they are called to practice.

"I have no issue with appointing judges who are bilingual. Where there is a question, it is to the effect of requiring almost systematically that judges at the Court of Quebec be bilingual," objected Minister Jolin-Barrette.

Chief Justice Lucie Rondeau had argued that this was a matter of 'judicial independence' from politics.

"This is not a question of judicial independence," replied Jolin-Barrette on Wednesday.

"Quebecers have the right to be heard in their own language; there is no doubt about that. The question is: why does the Court require systematic bilingualism in several districts, when the majority of cases are in French and the Court is composed of judges who have language skills?"

He also rejected any suggestion that his two roles as both minister responsible for the Charter of the French Language and justice minister are in conflict here.

"No, not at all. If I was not the minister responsible for the French language, I would have the same and I would have the same position," he replied.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2021.