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22 May 20236 minute read

Québec‎’s Bill 96 modified the Charter of the French Language: Five things you need to know for the ‎June 1, 2023 deadline

On June 1, 2022, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec (“Bill 96”) received royal assent and became law. Bill 96 brought about significant changes to the Charter of the French Language, commonly know as Bill 101 (the “Charter”). Some of these changes came into force immediately, while others will come into effect progressively over a period of three years. For more information about the key dates when the amendments come into force, please see our previous publication.

The following article provides an overview of the five requirements under the Charter that will come into effect on June 1, 2023 and of how businesses and employers can comply with these new requirements.

1. Contracts of adhesion (i.e. contracts that are pre-determined by one party and not negotiated) must be presented in French first before parties jointly choose to be bound by a version drawn up in a language other than French:

  • Bill 96 requires that a company submit the French version of the contract of adhesion or standard form contract first. Only after the adhering party has examined the French version can the parties jointly choose to be bound by a version drawn up in a language other than French.
  • Examples of contracts of adhesion include insurance policies and contracts, terms of service, franchise agreements, and any other consumer or commercial agreement pre-determined by one party.
  • Similar obligations will exist when drafting certain contracts for real estate transactions and for invoices, ‎receipts, acquittances (waivers) and other documents of the same nature.‎

2. Employers must translate employment application forms, documents relating to conditions of employment and training documents produced for staff.

Documents created post-Bill 96: Since June 1, 2022, three types of documents that are newly created must be available to employees in French (or bilingual, as long as the French version is available on terms that are at least as favourable):

  • employment application forms;
  • documents relating to conditions of employment; and
  • training documents produced for the staff.

Documents which existed pre-Bill 96 (before June 1, 2022): Employers benefited from a one year deadline ending on June 1, 2023 to translate existing documents belonging to one of these three categories of documents if they were only made available in a language other than French before Bill 96 came into effect.

Examples of documents to be translated by June 1, 2023 include:

  • job postings, job application documents;
  • employment policies, documentation regarding employee benefits, equity plans and agreements, etc;
  • training policies and procedures, employee handbooks, etc.

3. Deadline for employees to request a French translation of their employment agreements if they were drafted solely in a language other than French prior to Bill 96:

  • By no later than June 1, 2023, an existing employee who was provided with an English-only version of an employment agreement before June 1, 2022 (the date of coming into force of Bill 96) can request  a French version of that employment agreement. If the employee requests the French version within that time period, the employer must provide it as soon as possible, at no cost to the employee. If there is a discrepancy between the French text and the English text of the translated employment agreement, an employee may invoke either text.
  • Please note that this requirement does not apply to any fixed-term employment agreements that expire no later than June 1, 2024.

4. Contracts entered into with the civil administration, and related documents will have to be drafted in French:

  • The term “civil administration” includes the Government of Québec, Québec government bodies and agencies, corporations fully owned by the Government, most municipalities, school bodies, and bodies in the health and social services network.
  • Written documents sent to the civil ‎administration to enter into a contract or ‎agreement, related to a contract or ‎agreement to which the civil administration is ‎a party, and written documents sent under ‎such a contract or agreement will have to be drawn ‎up in French. A version in another ‎language may be attached to the French version.
  • Exceptionally, this rule does not apply ‎where the civil administration enters into a ‎contract outside of Québec.
  • The use of French will also be required when a legal person renders services to the Government.
  • Applications for a permit or other authorizations will have to be drawn up exclusively in French. A failure to use French in dealings with the ‎Government could result in suspension or ‎revocation of a permit or other authorization ‎issued by the Government.
  • For example, companies that bid on public contracts, or which must apply for permits or other authorizations issued by the Québec government, should keep in mind that documents and communications sent to the civil administration will generally have to be in French.

5. The Office québécois de la langue française (the “OQLF”) may identify businesses with as few as five employees in certain key sectors, to which Francisation Québec could offer French language learning services:

  • The OQLF may identify businesses with as few as five employees in certain key sectors to which it will offer French language learning services provided by Francisation Québec, a new agency of the Ministry of Immigration, Francisation and Integration.
  • A company that implements French language learning services provided by Francisation Québec is required to allow its employees who are unable to communicate in French to receive those services in class, online and in the workplace.

We strongly recommend that businesses with operations in Québec review their contracts, policies, employment agreements, and all documentation listed above now and consider translating them into French in order to comply with these new requirements before the June 1, 2023 deadline.

For more information about French language requirements in Québec, please contact one of our DLA Piper (Canada) LLP Québec lawyers.