Charlebois v. Saint John (City)  3 S.C.R. 563 was a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on minority language rights in New Brunswick. The Court found no statutory obligation on municipalities for bilingualism in court proceedings.
Mario Charlebois challenged the city of Saint John
for not using the French language
in court proceedings. Section 22 of the provincial Official Languages Act stated that the Queen should provide bilingual services through the province or institutions, so this raised the question of whether a municipality is an institution. Both the trial judge and the New Brunswick Court of Appeal
decided municipalities are not institutions. The Court of Appeal and Supreme Court found the definition of an "institution" is an institution which under legislation has a function related to government.
Charlebois also challenged English-only municipal laws and won his case before the Court of Appeal with arguments regarding section 18, section 16, and section 16.1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court of Appeal decision is also known as Charlebois v. Mowat et ville de Moncton. The government of New Brunswick said it would not appeal this decision and instead provided the affected municipalities with the funds needed to provide French-language versions of their municipal statutes.
Justice Louise Charron
emphasized in her opinion that the majority would not consider constitutional issues but rather just the statutes and whether the municipality should have used French in the courts, and she found against Charlebois. Charron noted that in terms of constitutional law and section 16 of the Charter, municipalities were deemed institutions by the Court of Appeal. However, she decided that the Court of Appeal's decision related more to section 18 of the Charter and the commentary on section 16 and institutions was thus obiter dictum
. She thus turned back to the definition of an institution according to statutes. Looking at the Official Languages Act, Charron found that a municipality is considered to be an entity separate from institutions and each has different language responsibilities. The responsibilities for municipalities are more limited than those held by other institutions, and while the defendant in quasi-criminal law will have the choice as to what language is used, this is not necessarily true of civil proceedings. While the Charter of Rights could encourage a liberal reading of the law if the law is uncertain, Charron found that in this case the law was clear.