The upcoming amendments to the Charter of the French Language (CFL), enacted through Bill 96, have provoked an intense debate throughout Canada. Do they "augment Quebec's powers to promote the use of French," or are they "far beyond what is necessary to protect the French language"? Regardless, Bill 96 will significantly impact the daily operations of businesses operating in Quebec.
According to the government of Quebec, Bill 96 is "An act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec.". It is a complex piece of legislation that will amend the CFL, 24 other provincial statutes, one regulation, and the Constitution Act, 1867.
Although it will affect Quebec by its very nature, it will also present challenges for businesses across Canada.
Here are three critical areas of business that will be impacted by Bill 96:
Bill 96 would make French the only language required to work in Quebec. There will be some exceptions to this amendment, however it will be the responsibility of companies to clarify why their employees need to speak English. Before making another language a prerequisite of employment, companies will have to assess why this condition is necessary, and then they must document it.
Considering that employers must respect the workers' right to carry on their activities in French, Bill 96 proposes that all offers of employment, transfers, or promotions should be conducted in French by the employer. The same applies to employment contracts, written communications, and employment-related documentation.
In addition, job postings in other languages should be advertised simultaneously with a separate French version, and be promoted using the same methods.
The existing trademark regulation in Canada states that a recognized trademark (both common and those with a pending application) may appear on public signs and posters exclusively in a language other than French. However, Bill 96 imposes that such exception can only be used for registered trademarks, given that they have no corresponding French version in the Canadian Trademarks Database.
In other words, if a trademark hasn't yet been registered once Bill 96 takes effect, it cannot be exclusively advertised in a language that is not French.
The Bill 96 regulation goes a step further than the current trademark requirements. The French trademark within public signs and advertisements must be markedly predominant over those in another language. As defined by regulation, "markedly predominant" refers to the French text in signs, posters, or commercial advertising being twice as large or otherwise carrying more visual impact than those with another language. Whereas the current legislation only requires a sufficient presence of French in the advertisements.
Under Bill 96, any legal person who is a party to legal proceedings must either draft their pleadings in French or submit them along with a certified translation at their own cost. The same rules apply to international businesses engaged in litigation in Quebec. The bill does not provide an exception for those parties that agree to hold the proceedings in English.
Moreover, any judgment rendered in English by a court of law will be automatically translated into French, and any judgment rendered in French can be translated into English upon request of a party. In such cases, the translation costs will be borne by the province.
Regardless of your opinion of the bill, its implications and challenges must be seriously considered by companies in Quebec. We encourage businesses operating in Quebec to create a proper strategy to tackle the inevitable ramifications of Bill 96.
Many companies have started relying more on professional translation partners. However, with the stricter financial penalties for non-compliance, you cannot risk having lesser qualified translations. The most important thing you can do is ensure your translation partner offers the knowledge of industry-specific terminology.
As one of the leading translation service providers, we aim to empower you with the proper knowledge, tools, and understanding you need to navigate this adverse environment better. We are pleased to share with you our first webinar to explore Bill 96 more in-depth, featuring industry experts André de Maurivez, Keyvan Nassiry, Tania Da Silva, and Gary Kalaci.
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