Government of Canada Takes Next Steps Toward Implementing the Reinstated and Modernized Court Challenges Program

News Release

GATINEAU, September 1st, 2017

The Government is committed to safeguarding Canada’s official languages and human rights. As part of her commitment to implement a modernized Court Challenges Program (CCP), the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, announced today the composition of the Expert Panel Selection Committee and the institution that will administer the Program. The new CCP, announced in February 2017, will work to advance the rights and freedoms of all Canadians by providing financial support for the litigation of test cases of national significance in the realm of official language rights and human rights in Canada.

Minister Joly unveiled the five-member Selection Committee that will recommend a pool of qualified candidates for the CCP’s two Expert Panels on human rights and official language rights.

The members of the Expert Panel Selection Committee are:

  • Ms. Jenifer Aitken, Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs, Department of Canadian Heritage
  • Mr. Gino LeBlanc, Director of the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs, Simon Fraser University
  • Ms. Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission
  • Ms. Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta
  • Ms. Laurie Wright, Assistant Deputy Minister, Public Law and Legislative Services Sector, Department of Justice Canada

The Selection Committee will recommend the selection criteria for candidates and assess the candidates’ suitability, based on the government’s open, transparent and merit-based appointment process. The members of the Selection Committee are encouraged to recommend candidates that are sensitive to the challenges faced by traditionally disadvantaged groups in pursuing human and official language rights cases. They are also encouraged to ensure that Canada’s linguistic, gender and regional diversity are reflected in the composition of the two Expert Panels.

The two Expert Panels, one responsible for official language rights and one responsible for human rights, will be tasked with assessing funding applications for court cases of national importance and allocating resources accordingly. Each panel will be composed of seven members.

Following a request for proposals, the University of Ottawa has been selected to implement and administer the CCP. In selecting a third-party institution to host the CCP, the Government is ensuring that the Program will operate independently to advance the rights and freedoms of all Canadians.

An announcement of the opening of the application process for the two Expert Panels will follow.


“We are committed to providing Canadians of all backgrounds with the support they need to advance their official language rights and human rights. With the managing institution and Expert Panel Selection Committee in place, we are one step closer to fulfilling our promise of a fully operational, modernized Court Challenges Program. I am confident that the University of Ottawa and the members of the Selection Committee will carry out their responsibilities with the highest standards of efficiency, transparency and independence.”

—The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage

“We are determined to implement the modernized Court Challenges Program. The result will be a justice system that better protects and clarifies official language and human rights guaranteed under Canada’s Constitution and the Official Languages Act by giving Canadians access to funding. Today’s announcement is an important step toward fulfilling our commitment.”

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

“The University of Ottawa is proud to have been chosen to administer the new Court Challenges Program. This Program will allow Canadians to advance issues of national interest before the courts in matters of rights and freedoms and of official language. These values are at the heart of Canadian democracy, and define us as a society.”

—Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Ottawa

Quick Facts

  • The Court Challenges Program will provide financial assistance to Canadians who want to initiate, or participate in, proceedings that involve test cases of official language rights and human rights that have not yet been heard by the courts.

  • In the mandate letters of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Government of Canada committed to reinstating and modernizing the Court Challenges Program.

  • Of the annual investment of $5 million, a minimum of $1.5 million will be allocated for clarification of official language rights. The remainder will be granted for clarification of other rights covered by the Program.

  • The Government has broadened the range of permissible rights to certain sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that relate to fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, the right to life, liberty and security of the person, as well as the majority of the rights guaranteed by the Official Languages Act.

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For more information (media only), please contact:

Christine Michaud
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Media Relations
Canadian Heritage

For more information, media may contact:

Kathleen Davis
Communications and Parliamentary Affairs Advisor
Office of the Minister of Justice

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

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