Minority Language Educational Rights Vindicated

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Book Chapter

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minority language rights, language rights, education rights, francophone language rights, anglophone language rights, Nova Scotia, Canada, constitutional rights, constitutional law, Lavoie v Attorney General of Nova Scotia


The vindication of constitutional rights through the courts is an arduous, lengthy, and expensive task. Courts are notoriously slow, procedural demands are high, and lawyers are expensive. Given the inherent limitations of the court process as a vehicle of societal change, it is generally preferable to pursue solutions outside of the judicial forum, through administrative and political avenues. However, should lobbying efforts fail to provide a solution, records to the courts may be necessary as a last resort to prod reluctant administrators or politicians.

The pursuit of minority language educational rights in particular presents difficult challenges for both litigants and their counsel: the historic tension between Francophones and Anglophones in Canada, the constitutionalized national standards of minority language education which potentially clashes with the constitutional authority of the provinces to legislate on matter of education pursuant to section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and the tradition of local control exercised by school boards and education authorities.

This article focuses on the case of Lavoie v Attorney General of Nova Scotia as a case study which illuminates these tensions.