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Civil law dean appears on behalf of Francophones and Acadians

Photo courtesy of Sébastien Grammond 

A professor at the University of Ottawa has made a presence in the Supreme Court of Canada to uphold  the interests of Francophone and Acadian communities.

The Supreme Court held a hearing Nov. 12–14 to determine whether the Senate needs abolishment or reform, and allowed provinces, territories, language groups, senators, and law experts to speak. Sébastien Grammond, dean of civil law at the U of O, appeared before the court at a hearing concerning the Senate.

According to the Constitution, amendments such as abolishing the Senate can be made using the 7/50 formula. Seven provinces, which represent at least 50 per cent of the population, approve the change. However, Grammond noted the Senate could be removed “against the wishes of Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia” due to population distribution, even though they represent half the seats in the Senate and a large French population.

“The interests of French-speaking communities are better represented in the Senate than the House of Commons,” Grammond said, “and abolition or significant Senate reform—such as the introduction of elected as opposed to appointed senators—would result in poorer representation of Francophone interests.”

The movement to change the Senate has intensified over the past year with financial scandals involving Senators Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, and Mike Duffy entering the public view.  Brazeau was suspended in February after his arrest for assault and Wallin and Duffy were suspended Nov. 5.

Some experts wondered whether Duffy and Wallin should have been appointed at all, due to law professionals who questioned their residency qualifications. Duffy represented Prince Edward Island despite living in Ottawa for four decades, and Wallin represented Saskatchewan while living in Toronto, although both owned property in their representative areas.

Grammond, despite saying he “would like to study the issue in more detail,” did say the Constitution states that a Senator must own land and be a resident of the province for which they are a representative. He said he believes simply owning land is insufficient.

He also said although a Senator has never been disqualified over residency, “non-compliance over a period of time does not make the requirement disappear.”

The residency and financial scandals are just a few of the problems Canadians had with the Senate leading up to the Supreme Court hearings. They ended Nov. 14 and it will take six to 12 months for the Supreme Court to come to a decision.

Grammond has been dean of the civil law section since 2009. He has appeared before the Supreme Court many times as an appellant representative and as a friend of the court. Before coming to the U of O in 2004, he practised law for several years at a Montreal law firm, specializing in aboriginal, constitutional and administrative, business, and construction law.