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Québec makes sweeping changes to its French language laws

Author(s): Alexandre Fallon

Jan 11, 2023

On May 24, 2022, the Québec National Assembly, the provincial legislature, adopted Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec. Bill 96 is the most significant piece of legislation in respect of language rights to be passed in Québec since the initial adoption of the Charter of the French Language in 1977. Bill 96 brings significant changes to the use of the French language in the province, with new requirements and potential liability for a failure to comply with them.

New private right of action

Bill 96 makes a number of amendments to the Charter of the French Language, most of which came into force on June 1, 2022. It also affects other important legislation, most notably, the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which now stipulates that every person in Québec has a right to live in French to the extent provided for in the Charter of the French Language. This change to the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms is undoubtedly one of the most noteworthy features of the recent reforms: for the first time, Québec residents and Québec businesses have the ability to initiate private legal actions against businesses that do not comply with the requirements of the Charter of the French Language. These private actions can result in damages, including punitive damages. In addition, the court can declare certain types of contracts to be unenforceable if they were not presented in French and can grant injunctive relief. The ability to seek punitive damages, in particular, gives rise to increased risk of class action litigation, as the standalone availability of punitive damages for a breach of the Charter of the French Language can facilitate such claims on behalf of broad classes of persons...

Read or listen to this Legal Year in Review 2022 article