In Alberta, French and English remained the official
languages of the Legislative Assembly and of the courts, when
the province was established according to section 110 of the
North West Territories Act, such as it was modified in 1891.1
Although a motion had been made to remove French from the
Legislative Assembly in 1891, in reality no law was enacted to
enforce it. All the same, it was commonly believed that English
was the only official language of the province. French had been
used from time to time in the Alberta Legislative Assembly, and
usually received quite well, but the use of French in the courts
seems to have been limited to one case, occurring in 1924.
Afterwards, the courts contended that French had been abolished.
In 1986, when Léo Piquette, then New Democrat member of the
legislative assembly for Athabasca-Lac La Biche, presented a
speech in French requesting that he be permitted to assume the
rights accorded to him by the article 110 of the statutes of the
North West Territories Act of 1891. The response to his request
was silence, but a year later, when he requested that the
Minister of Education see to fulfilling the rights given to
francophones according to section 23 of the Constitution Act of
April 1982, he was commanded by the speaker of the house, in
French no less, to speak English.
Alberta government members were astounded to hear of
Piquette’s statement of rights. Their inquiry into the subject
muddled matters, claims were made that Piquette was wrong and he
was requested to apologise for having disrupted the assembly.
However, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on the Mercure
case a few months later (and clearly stated that section 110 of
the North West Territories Act was still in vigour) Alberta and
Saskatchewan passed laws repealing section 110.