Government of Canada Reinstates the Modernized Court Challenges Program to Better Defend the Rights and Freedoms of Canadians

News Release

Broader scope will clarify fundamental rights and make the justice system more accessible

February 7, 2017 – Ottawa – Department of Canadian Heritage and Department of Justice Canada

The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and the Honourable Jody Wilson‑Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, are pleased to announce the reinstatement and modernization of a program that, historically, has helped clarify and strengthen the constitutional rights of Canadians by supporting test cases. The Court Challenges Program will provide financial aid to groups and individuals asserting their rights and hold the government accountable for defending the rights and freedoms of all Canadians. The Program will have an annual budget of $5 million.

The previous programs changed the course of history and played a significant role in most major court challenges associated with official language and equality rights in Canada. The programs have helped groups and individuals advocate for rights and freedoms at school, at work and in their day-to-day lives.

With the modernized Program, the government intends to better reflect changes in the Canadian jurisprudence by expanding the scope of eligible rights to sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms relating to fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, life, liberty and security of the person and most of the language rights guaranteed under the Official Languages Act.

The Program will have a modernized governance structure that is independent, transparent and accountable, and ensures the impartiality of funding decisions.

Today, the Government is launching a process to select an independent body that will be mandated to implement and manage the modernized Court Challenges Program. Interested parties have until March 6, 2017, to submit an application.

In the upcoming months, an open, transparent and merit-based process will also be initiated in order to select the members of two expert panels that will be responsible for making decisions regarding Program funding. More details will follow.

The Government of Canada is aiming to have a modernized Program operational by fall 2017.


“We are extremely proud of our free and democratic society, which is recognized around the world. It inspires us to work continuously to make Canada more diverse, inclusive and equitable. The return of the Court Challenges Program is a testament to our government’s commitment to protecting human rights and official language rights. The impact of this program on our history is tangible, and the modernized version will change the lives of many Canadians.”

—The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage

“Reinstating a modern Court Challenges Program will increase access to justice for vulnerable groups and official‑language communities. Doing so as we celebrate the Charter’s 35th anniversary is a clear affirmation of our Government’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law.”

—The Honourable Jody Wilson‑Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Quick Facts

  • In its ministerial mandate letters to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Government of Canada committed to modernizing and reinstating the Court Challenges Program
  • The Program has been modernized following a detailed analysis of several relevant areas, including an evaluation of the former Court Challenges Program and Language Rights Support Program, the results of consultations held in spring 2016 with over 100 stakeholders, and the Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, released on September 19, 2016.
  • Of the annual $5‑million investment, a minimum of $1.5 million will be allocated to the clarification of language rights. The balance will be allocated to the clarification of other rights covered by the Program.

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Associated Links


Pierre-Olivier Herbert
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Media Relations
Canadian Heritage

David Taylor
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Media Relations
Department of Justice

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