POLITICS

Nova Scotia rejects Acadian request for appeal court ruling on new ridings

04/16/2013 02:32 EDT | Updated 06/16/2013 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - An Acadian group's fight over electoral boundary changes in Nova Scotia won't be referred to the province's appeal court, Premier Darrell Dexter said Tuesday.

The Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia wanted the court to rule on the constitutionality of changes that merged three ridings intended to represent Acadian populations, with other ridings.

The federation had asked the province to refer the matter to the appeal court, but Dexter said that wasn't the government's job.

"It was an odd request in the first place," he said. "We don't do referrals on behalf of people."

Dexter said the federation was free to use the court system on its own if it wished. He also said it would also be odd for the government, which is satisfied with the boundary changes that passed in the legislature in December, to refer them to the appeal court.

"In our view, there is nothing to refer," Dexter said. "Whatever aspect of this that they wanted to pursue they would have to pursue independently."

Federation executive director Marie-Claude Rioux expressed disappointment with the government's stance. She said the appeal court route would have been faster and cheaper than the normal civil process.

"We've always tried to settle this out of court," she said. "There is so much you can do and, after that, the only option left is to take the government to court."

Rioux said the federation would file notice of application on a legal challenge by the end of the month.

The federation has said the challenge would argue that the province's linguistic minority wasn't properly considered when the electoral boundaries were rewritten. Also, they contend that the changes took away the voice of French-speaking people in the ridings of Clare, Argyle and Richmond.

The province's electoral map was redrawn following a report by an independent commission that recommended that the Acadian ridings and a Halifax-area riding with a large black population be merged with neighbouring districts to ensure relatively equal representation.

Dexter said it would be unfortunate if the federation resorted to court action because the government has worked to protect the language and historical traditions of the Acadian community.

"They continue to be partners and we're going to continue to work with them to make sure they get the kind of representation they deserve," he said.