Reference Re Manitoba Language Rights

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Reference Re Manitoba Language Rights
Supreme Court of Canada
Hearing: June 11, 12, 13, 1984
Judgment: June 13, 1985
Citations [1985] 1 S.C.R. 721
Docket No. 18606
Court Membership
Reasons given
Unanimous reasons by The Court
Ritchie and Chouinard JJ. took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Reference Re Manitoba Language Rights [1985] 1 S.C.R. 721 was a reference question posed to the Supreme Court of Canada regarding provisions in the Manitoba Act stipulating the provision of French language services in the province of Manitoba. The Court heard the appeal in June 1984, and gave its ruling a year later, on June 13, 1985.

Four questions were asked:

  1. Are sections 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and 23 of the Manitoba Act, 1870, requiring laws be in both French and English, mandatory in Manitoba, Quebec, and Parliament?
  2. If so, are those Manitoban laws not printed in both languages invalid under section 23 of the Manitoba Act?
  3. If so, do the laws have any force and effect, and if so to what extent?
  4. Are any of the provisions of An Act Respecting the Operation of Section 23 of the Manitoba Act in Regard to Statutes inconsistent with section 23 of the Manitoba Act, 1870, and if so are the provisions invalid and of no legal force and effect?

The Court found that the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Manitoba Act, 1870 did require both languages and that those laws that were not in both languages were of no force and effect; however, they were deemed temporarily valid for a time until translations can be re-enacted in order to avoid a legal vacuum in Manitoba and to ensure the continuity of the rule of law.

This reference was the first time that the courts in Canada had used the remedy of a delayed declaration of invalidity. Despite its exceptional origins, this remedy has grown to become a preferred one in Canadian public law.[1]

Manitoba was given a generous period of time to translate the laws and, in 1992, the court was still extending this grace period to be decided by the parties. [2]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Case comment at end of
  2. ^ Supplementary reasons [1992] 1 SCR 212