POLITICS

Acadian group in Nova Scotia restarts legal action opposing riding boundaries

09/15/2014 09:06 EDT | Updated 11/15/2014 05:59 EST
HALIFAX - The Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia is restarting its legal action against the provincial government in an effort to overturn electoral boundary changes it says will reduce francophone representation in the legislature.

The federation wanted the province to refer the legislation passed in December 2012 directly to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal as a constitutional issue.

The group says it has been waiting for a mutually agreed legal question to be sent to the Appeal Court for eight months, but the government hasn't acted.

Ghislain Boudreau, the federation's acting president, said Monday it is left with no choice but to restart the legal action, which had been on hold, through the regular court process.

"After ... months of just being told, 'It's coming, it's coming,' we're at the point where we have to do something to encourage the province to actually do something about the situation," he said.

In an email, the province's Justice Department said it is committed to a direct reference to the Court of Appeal and was working with the federation this summer on procedural issues. It said documents would be forthcoming later this month, but didn't specify what they were.

The legal case challenges the merger of three ridings — previously known as Clare, Argyle and Richmond — that were intended to represent Acadian populations with other ridings.

Marie-Claude Rioux, executive director of the federation, said its challenge already has $125,000 in funding for the first stage of its case.

The group will rely on voting rights provisions in Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, she said.

"We feel that as a minority we are entitled to choose who we want to represent us in the legislature. By combining the ridings of Clare, Argyle and Richmond into larger ridings, anglophone ridings, we have less chance of electing someone we want to represent us," Rioux said.

"We wouldn't go to court if we weren't convinced we're going to win this one."

In two of the three merged ridings, francophones were elected in last year's election. But Rioux said she is fearful of what will happen in the future if well-known francophone candidates don't run.