On May 24, 2022, Bill 96, An Act Respecting French, the Official and Common Language of Québec ("Bill 96") was adopted in Québec's National Assembly and received assent on June 1, 2022.
Bill 96 aims to further promote the French language and reiterate the formal recognition of French as the only official language in Québec. It clarifies and reinforces the measures currently in force through the Charter of the French Language (the "Charter")1, introduces new requirements and restrictions, and strengthens the role of the Office québécois de la langue française, the governmental body responsible for ensuring compliance with the Charter.
Businesses and lawyers must prepare for the impact Bill 96 will have on Québec's judicial process and court system. The new rules will come into force within varying delays (from immediately upon assent to three years from assent).2 The provisions that come into force on the day of assent are now in effect.
What is Changing
New Obligations for Legal Persons3 to Provide French Translations
- Legal persons must submit all pleadings in French or provide a certified translation: Bill 96 creates the obligation that all pleadings submitted to courts by legal persons must be drawn up in French. If the original pleading is in English, it must be accompanied by a certified French translation, paid for by the legal person submitting the pleading. The certified translator must be a member of the Ordre professionnel des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec.
Any pleadings that do not satisfy the above requirement will be rejected by the court or judicial body.
This requirement will come into force on September 1, 2022.4
- Legal persons must translate foreign judgements and arbitration awards: Legal persons will be required to translate most foreign judgements and arbitration awards into French in order for them to be recognized by Québec courts.
This provision comes into force immediately.5
Emphasis on French Language for Judges and Judgements
- Final Court Rulings must be accompanied by a French translation: any English-language judgement that terminates a proceeding or is of the public interest must be accompanied without delay by a French translation. Any judgement rendered in either French or English may be translated into the other language at the request of a party. The State will assume all costs for these translations.
This provision comes into force on June 1, 2024.6
- Provincially appointed judges no longer need to be proficient in a language other than French: knowledge of any language other than French cannot be used as a selection criteria for judicial candidates appointed by the provincial government. Candidates to the Court of Québec, municipal courts, and provincial administrative tribunals will not be required to speak a language other than French except when the provincial government decides that a non-French language is necessary for the position and that all reasonable means have been taken to prevent this from being necessary.
This provision comes into force immediately.7
Specific French Requirements Pertinent to Litigation
- Members of professional orders are required to translate their documents: members of professional orders have to translate their opinions, reports, expert reports or other documents into French upon the request of anyone who is authorized to obtain these documents. If the person requesting the translation is a client and a legal person, that person pays for the translation.
This provision comes into force immediately.8
- Foreign notice of service must be in French: notification of a foreign pleading to a person in Québec has to be done in French, or be accompanied by a certified translation.
This provision comes into force immediately.9
- Documents filed to the Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights (RDPRM) must be in French: filings to the Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights, whether done by legal persons or natural persons be done exclusively in French.
This provision comes into force as of September 1, 2022.10
- New declarations of co-ownership to the Land Registry Office and their amendments must be in French: all co-ownership declarations and any amendments to an act constituting a co-ownership or the description of the co-ownership fractions has to be filed exclusively in French at the Land Registry Office.
This provision comes into force immediately.11
- All other applications to the Land Registry Office and their amendments must be in French: all applications and their amendments submitted to the Land Registry Office, whether by legal persons or natural persons be done exclusively in French.
This provision comes into force as of September 1, 2022.12
- Amendments to existing registrations at the Land Registry Office may continue to be made in their original language: Amendments to existing land registry registrations that were effected in a language other than French prior to the coming into force of Bill 96 may continue to be made in that language.13 What is Staying the Same?
- Litigants still have the right to plead in the official language of their choice: Either French or English may be used by any person in any pleading or process in any court in Canada, including courts in Québec. This will not change.14
We will be watching the impact of Bill 96 closely and monitoring how businesses and courts react to them. If you would like more information about how these changes will affect your business and how you might best prepare, we are here to help.
How Can We Help?
Bill 96 will have several ramifications on Québec court proceedings and change the way court filings, pleadings, and litigation will be managed.
We are here to help and advise on how to think through the implementation of the necessary changes within your business in order to ensure compliance with Québec French language requirements.
In respect of new requirements to translate some of your existing documentation, MT>Version, a division of McCarthy Tétrault, offers high quality legal translation services by leveraging highly qualified in-house resources and utilizing innovative solutions, including proprietary machine translation technology, to meet your business translation objectives and timelines. MT>Version will work with you to provide clear benefits in terms of cost and deadlines, all while delivering peace of mind.
1 Charter of the French language, CQLR c C-11.
2 All entries into force are defined at section 201 of Bill 96.
3 A legal person is an organization that has been given a legal personality, including rights and obligations, that is distinct from those of its members (French translation: "personne morale"), see Art. 309 and 299 CCQ; A natural person is an individual human being with their own legal rights and obligations (French translation: "personne physique"), see Art. 1 CCQ.
4 Section 9 of the Charter as amended by section 5 of Bill 96 and Section 208.6 of the Charter as amended by section 116 of Bill 96.
5 Art. 508 and 652 CCP as amended by sections 140 and 141 of Bill 96.
6 Section 10 of the Charter as amended by section 5 of Bill 96.
7 Section 12 of the Charter as amended by section 5 of Bill 96.
8 Section 30.1 of the Charter as amended by section 20 of Bill 96.
9 Art. 496 CPP, as amended by section 139 of Bill 96.
10 Art. 2984 and 3006 CCQ as amended by sections 125 and 126 of Bill 96.
11 Art. 1060 and 1070 CCQ, as amended by section 124 of Bill 96.
12 Art. 2984 and 3006 CCQ as amended by sections 125 and 126 of Bill 96.
13 Section 196 of Bill 96.
14 Section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867; section 7(4) of the Charter.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.