Skip to content

Parlez-Vous Francais? Recent amendments to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language may impact Atlantic Canadian businesses

By: David F. Slipp and Levi Parsche

In May 2022, Bill 96 was adopted by Quebec’s National Assembly, significantly amending the Charter of the French Language (the “Charter“). The amendments create new requirements for using French in commerce, education, marketing/advertising, contracting, legal proceedings, and more.

Many of the new requirements under Bill 96 came into effect on June 1, 2022 but further amendments came into force on September 1 and December 1, 2022. More amendments are set to come into effect over the next three years.

The Bill is aimed at protecting the French language in Quebec, and affirming that French is the “only official language” of the province. The Charter sets out when French must be used by a business when communicating with Quebec entities and individuals and when a “language other than French” may be used.

A summary table below briefly explains the amendments implemented through Bill 96 and their effective date.

Amendments Already in Force:

Effective Date Area Impacted Summary of Change
June 1, 2022 Employment (employee language proficiency) Employers in Quebec cannot require existing or future employees to have proficiency in any language other than French in order to acquire or maintain a job. This includes recruitment, hiring, transfer, and promotion processes. If a certain role requires knowledge of a non-French language, employers must demonstrate its necessity and that they did everything possible to avoid imposing this requirement.
June 1, 2022 Employment (employment contracts) Employment-related documents (e.g., transfer offers, promotion paperwork, employment agreements, applications, training documents) provided by employers in Quebec must be in French. This includes communications with former employees, individual workers, all or part of the staff, and workers’ associations.

Employment contracts will also become subject to the new general contract requirements discussed below.

June 1, 2022 Employment
(job postings)
If an employer wishes to post a job posting in English, it must simultaneously post a French posting, using the same means of transmission, and reaching a target audience of comparable size.
June 1, 2022 Real property (purchase and exchange agreements) Certain contracts for the sale or exchange of residential properties must now be drafted in French. Generally, agreements for the sale or exchange of residential property consisting of less than five dwellings must be drafted in French unless it is the express wish of the parties that they be drawn up in another language (may be stated in an explicit clause). This rule also applies to the related documents of the agreement.
June 1, 2022 Language of service Businesses which offer goods and/or services in Quebec must inform and serve both their consumer and business clients in French. Violation of this obligation is an offence punishable by fines.

Prior to these amendments, only consumers had the right to be informed and served in French. This protection has expanded to include commercial clients/customers as well.

June 1, 2022 Advertising & Publication All advertising and publications intended for the public may only be available in English if the French version is available on equally, if not more favourable terms. This requirement applies regardless of the medium used, including catalogues, brochures, folders, commercial directories, order forms and any other documents of the same nature that are available to the public.
June 1, 2022 Packaging & Labelling The Charter now requires that if an English translation exists or is provided for an inscription on a product, a menu, or a wine list, it must not be more prominent or be available “on more favourable terms” than the French version. Similarly, for invoices and receipts, the French terms must be “at least as favourable” as those in the English version.
June 1, 2022 Enforcement The Office Québécois de la langue française (the Quebec Board of the French Language, “OQLF“) is the governmental agency in charge of enforcing the Province’s language requirements. OQLF’s powers to investigate have been expanded, allowing them to enter any location at any reasonable time, take pictures of locations and objections where inspections are being conducted, and access data relevant to the enforcement of the Charter.

Additionally, the OQLF may apply to the Quebec Court for an injunction in relation to compliance with the Charter.

June 1, 2022 Sanctions & Penalties Fines for noncompliance with the Charter requirements can range from $3,000 to $30,000 for a business and from $700 to $7,000 for an individual. Fines will double for a second offense and triple for ensuing offenses. Non-compliant signs or advertising can be removed at the owner’s expense.

Additionally, if noncompliance with the Charter extends for more than one day, each day of the offence constitutes a separate offence.

The Minister of the French Language may also suspend or revoke a permit or authorization granted by the Quebec government if the permit or authorization holder repeatedly contravenes the Charter.

Sept. 1, 2022 Security Registration All applications for registration of a security interest (such as hypothecs in the Land Register or in the Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights) must be drafted exclusively in French. All associated documents must also be in French or accompanied by a certified translation.

Further, all amendments to existing registrations must also be submitted in French.

 

Amendments Not Yet in Force:

Effective Date Area Impacted Summary of Change
June 1, 2023 Contracts Businesses will be required to present a French version of any non-negotiable or consumer contract. The parties may then decide to contract in English, but only after the non-drafting party or consumer has had the opportunity to review the French version. If the parties decide to contract in English, the related documents may also be English.

There are several types of common business contracts which are exempted from the above rule, including: loan contracts, clearing house contracts, contracts entered into on a platform for trading derivatives or securities, some insurance policies with no French-language equivalent in Quebec, and civil administration contracts “used in relations outside Quebec”.

June 1, 2025 Trademarks
(packaging, labelling & advertising)
Currently, an English recognized trademark may be used exclusively in English, so long as there is no French version that has been registered. Historically, a “recognized” trademark has been interpreted to be either a trademark registered under the federal Trademarks Act or a trademark recognized at common law.

Effective June 1, 2025, only trademarks that are registered under the Trademarks Act may benefit from the French trademark exemption. Therefore, non-registered trademarks will need to be translated to French on packaging, labelling, advertisements, public signage, posters, etc.

Currently, for public signage and signage visible from outside, an English-only recognized trademark must be accompanied by a “sufficient presence” of French. Effective June 1, 2025, French will need to be “markedly predominant” if there is an English-only trademark on a public sign, or if the advertising has the enterprise’s name and includes an expression in a language other than French.


This client update is provided for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about the above, please contact a member of the Stewart McKelvey team.

Click here to subscribe to Stewart McKelvey Thought Leadership.

SHARE

Archive

Search Archive


 
 

Atlantic Employers’ Counsel – Summer 2015

August 24, 2015

THE EDITORS’ CORNER Michelle Black and Sean Kelly Aaah, summer – that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming…

Read More

Client Update: Government of Canada Improvements to Procurement Integrity Provisions

July 13, 2015

The New Public Contracting World As part of an ongoing initiative aimed at ensuring Canada only does business with ethical suppliers, Public Works and Government Services Canada (“PWGSC”) has introduced changes to its Integrity Regime…

Read More

Client Update: Future CPP disability benefits are deductible under the SEF 44 in Nova Scotia

June 4, 2015

In an important case for insurance practice in Nova Scotia, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that the value of future CPP disability benefits is deductible under the SEF 44 family protection endorsement. Justice Scanlan wrote the…

Read More

Client Update: Changes to the Venture Issuer Regime Effective June 30, 2015

May 13, 2015

In order to streamline the continuous disclosure obligations of venture issuers, the Canadian Securities Administrators (“CSA”) are implementing amendments to the national instruments and companion policies listed below, that will come into force across Canada…

Read More

Client Update: New Nova Scotia Pension Benefits Act and Regulations effective June 1, 2015

April 23, 2015

On April 21, 2015, the Nova Scotia government declared that the new Pension Benefits Act (passed in 2011) and new Pension Benefits Regulations will come into effect on June 1, 2015. The new Regulations follow the new Act and draft Regulations summarized in…

Read More

Client Update: A Return to Reasonableness – Assessing Damages after Section D Settlements

April 4, 2015

An uninsured driver strikes another vehicle, injuring its occupants. These injured persons obtain a settlement from their own motor vehicle insurer (pursuant to Section D of the standard policy), and they assign their action against…

Read More

Atlantic Employers’ Counsel – Spring 2015

March 26, 2015

The Editors’ Corner Michelle Black and Sean Kelly Hello! We are very pleased to be the new Atlantic Employers’ Counsel (AEC) editors. We look forward to bringing you what we hope you will find to be interesting…

Read More

Client Update: The Employer’s implied contractual obligation to supply work: common law developments in employment law

March 10, 2015

Following several Supreme Court of Canada decisions in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the law of constructive dismissal was well defined – or so many thought. The Court’s decision in Potter v. New Brunswick Legal…

Read More

Client Update: Auto Insurance – Direct compensation for property damage is coming to PEI

March 5, 2015

In our May 20, 2014 client update, we reported on significant changes affecting automobile insurance in Prince Edward Island, including changes to no-fault benefits available under section B and changes to the damages cap for minor…

Read More

Labour and Employment Legislative Update 2014

February 10, 2015

2014 LABOUR AND EMPLOYMENT ATLANTIC CANADA LEGISLATIVE UPDATE As we move forward in 2015, we know our region’s employers will want to be aware of new legislation that has passed or could soon pass that…

Read More

Search Archive


Scroll To Top