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Government of Québec proposes stricter French language law (Part 1) – webinar series

Author(s): Alexandre Fallon, Monique Jérôme-Forget C.M., O.Q., PhD.

Sep 17, 2021

Proposed amendments to the Charter of the French Language (the Charter) in Québec, if adopted, would be the most significant overhaul to the Charter since it was first introduced in the 1970s. This will result in new requirements and new risks for companies operating in Québec. An overview of what may lie ahead was presented by Osler’s Alexandre Fallon, partner, Litigation, and Monique Jérôme-Forget, Special Advisor, during the first of two webinars being presented by Osler on the proposed amendments.

Currently corporations can file legal proceedings in either French or English. A proposed change would see companies wishing to file proceedings in English having to attach a certified French translation at their own expense. There is a similar proposed requirement for written communications to employees. Up to this point the Charter has been consistently interpreted as covering only communications relating to terms and conditions of employment. With the proposed amendments, training documents that currently do not have to be written in French would have to be made available to Québec employees in French.

With regard to standard form contracts, currently these must be available in French, unless the parties expressly state their wish to have them in another language. In practice, many companies simply insert a clause stating that the parties have expressly chosen to establish the contract in English. A proposed change would require the company to submit the French version of the standard contract first. A violation of this requirement could expose the company to damages, including punitive damages.

As far as the use of non-French signage is concerned, currently corporations that use a non-French trademark in their exterior signage must add “legible signs” to ensure the presence of French in the same visual field as the trademark, without specifications regarding font size. A proposed change would require the French text accompanying a non-French trademark to be “markedly predominant” in relation to the trademark. The French text would have to be twice the size of the non-French text, or the same font size, but twice the content in French than in another language.

A consultation process where comments on the proposed amendments can be made to the Québec National Assembly begins on September 21.


Slides: Government of Québec proposes stricter French language law Part 1