Bill C-232 is now up for debate in the Senate. This bill, which can be searched for by Google
would make it mandatory for Supreme Court justices to be bilingual.
In case you don't know, Quebec is one of the provinces, and they speak French (technically, Quebecois, since their version of French is not quite the same as Parisian French anymore). Quebec is also, interestingly, the only place in all of North America where French is spoken, owing to the French loss to the British way back during the Seven Years' War, in the eighteenth century. In consequence, I think the people of Quebec try to really guard their language and customs; they are, after all, in a sea of anglophones.
As far as federal policies go, all federal employees must be bilingual--even if they're Canada Parks rangers way out in the West, or people in the Parliament. All the websites of federal programs and so on can be accessed in French or English; the Prime Minister occasionally debates with other party leaders in French. Legislative work in Ottawa are published in both languages.
However, the farther you move away from Quebec (and New Brunswick, which is the only other province that mandates bilingualism in even the smaller courts), the fewer francophones you will meet. This is especially true for Western Canada (I'm defining this as Manitoba and west); there are few prominent francophone communities, and usually French is learned in schools. Western Canada is primarily anglophone.
And so this bill. I'm on the fence as to whether it's justified or whether we should implement them (being an anglophone, I realize I have privilege in being able to hear court cases in English). I'm not sure that I could really make a judgement on that, and I'm glad that I'm not going to decide this. I do have to say this, though: the application pool is already quite small to select Supreme Court justices from. There aren't all that many people who have the qualifications and the inclination to be a judge; by passing Bill C-232, that will shrink the pool even further.
And the bill won't shrink the pool evenly. No, Western Canada will be hit hardest, because honest to goodness the French culture is simply not here. You walk out onto the street every day of your life, and you will never be required to know French. A lot of kids opt out of learning French.
There's already grumbling from the West that they aren't being represented properly (if you like, take a look at equalization payments, how much Alberta is paying Quebec, and how Quebec is whining about Alberta. /annoyed). Alberta especially pays a great deal towards the East. This is not going to help the East-West division, superficial though it may seem. Citizens who appeal to the Supreme Court (or just have their cases tried there) are allowed to plead in either English or French; translators are used. Furthermore, three of the nine judges must be from the Quebec court; I'm not going to get into how this isn't representation by population, but whatever.
Even bigger of a problem is the familiarity one must have with a language to be a competent Supreme Court justice
. It takes years to become competent in the legal language of one's first language; imagine the time it'd take to acquire it in both. Even supposing you were fully bilingual, from childhood, and understood the nuances of both English and French, you would still need to learn it in both.
In summation: both sides, argh. I'm not too hopeful for this one.
tl;dr Bill C-232--not gonna be pretty, whichever way it goes.