MONTREAL -- A recent spat over language and bilingualism between Quebec's justice minister and the province's chief justice is raising serious concerns about the independence of the judiciary in the court system.

According to La Presse, Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette refused to require bilingualism in the selection of a new Quebec Court judge in the Longueuil district, despite a longstanding tradition of naming bilingual judges in the Greater Montreal Area.

"Every citizen has the right when addressing the court, no matter in what capacity, either as a witness or a lawyer, to choose English or French," explained Quebec Court Chief Justice Lucie Rondeau.

Jolin-Barrette is also the minister responsible for language.

He declined to comment Tuesday but has said the Quebec government is acting within its mandate.

Liberal leader Dominique Anglade, though, said the justice minister is crossing an important line.

"I think we need to be very, very cautious about this. There is an independence that needs to be kept between the executive and the judge," she said.

In Canada, there is currently no legal requirement to nominate bilingual judges, not even at the Supreme Court level. 

Chief justices like Rondeau normally communicate their regional linguistic needs before the government selects and appoint judges. 

This time, Rondeau said Jolin-Barrette ignored her request.

"I was mostly disappointed because the judicial organization for Longueuil needs bilingual judges," she said.

Everyone has the right to a trial in their own language. 

If the judge isn't bilingual, it means an interpreter has to be called in, or the case has to be transferred to someone else.

This should have been obvious, said Joan Fraser of the Quebec Community Group Network, which defends the rights of English speakers in the province.

"In the Greater Montreal Area, there are a lot of people whose preferred language is English and they have the right to assume they'll be properly understood if they find themselves in front of a judge," she said.