Backgrounder – Court Challenges Program

The reinstatement of a modernized Court Challenges Program (CCP) supports the mandates of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. The federal budget of 2016 allocated $5 million annually to the new CCP, of which a minimum of $1.5 million annually will be dedicated to the clarification of official language rights. The remainder will be dedicated to the clarification of human rights guaranteed under the Constitution, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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Objective

The objective of the CCP is to provide financial support to Canadians to access the courts for the litigation of test cases of national significance, to help clarify and assert certain constitutional and quasi-constitutional official language rights and human rights in Canada.

Expected results

The expected results of the CCP include the following:

Independent organization

The CCP will be implemented and managed by a third party to avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest on the part of the Government of Canada. The identified independent organization will be responsible for the general administration and delivery of the Program, including administering two funding decision-making Expert Panels, and Program promotion. On February 7, 2017, the Department of Canadian Heritage launched a proposal assessment process to select the independent organization.

Expert Panels

Decisions regarding CCP funding will be rendered by two independent expert panels, an Official Language Rights Expert Panel and a Human Rights Expert Panel. The seven members of each of the Expert Panels will be selected based on their expertise in the relevant legal areas and will report to the independent organization. In the coming months, an open, transparent and merit-based process will be launched to identify the members of the Expert Panels.

A panel selection committee, composed of both senior government officials and experts on official languages and human rights, will have the responsibility to recommend a short-list of qualified candidates for the two panels to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Funding priorities

Under the CCP, funding will be directed toward:

Targeted rights

The CCP will support official language rights and human rights derived from the following:

Precursors of the Program

Between 1978 and 2006, the former CCP was instrumental in helping Canadians to clarify and assert official language and equality rights guaranteed under Canada’s Constitution. The former program was cancelled in 2006. However, in 2008, following an out-of-court settlement, the Government of Canada committed to fund previously approved CCP cases (now called legacy cases) and to establish the Language Rights Support Program (LRSP).

A reinstated CCP will combine the former program and the LRSP with a more streamlined approach. As part of the transition process, measures will be put into place to the former programs and to ensure an efficient transfer of active files (former CCP legacy cases and current LRSP cases) to the new independent organization that will administer the new CCP.

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