Before Bill 96, translation requirements in Québec were based on communications strategy and the provisions of the Charter of the French Language (Charte de la langue française) (the Charter), enacted in 1977.
The Charter instituted French as the language of legislation and the courts, administration, work, business, and education. It required that all public signs be in French (another language could also be used if it was not more prominent than French) and that all children attend French school, except for those whose parents attended English school in Canada.
The Charter also mandated francization (the requirement for workplaces to use French in internal and external communications, work tools and documents, internal networks, software, and computer technology used within the applicable organization) for workplaces with 50 or more employees.
However, Québec remained practically bilingual until Bill 96 made French the Québec Government’s exclusive language of communication, and it imposed unprecedented requirements intended to protect and preserve the French language.
On May 24, 2022, the National Assembly of Québec adopted Bill 96 – An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec (Projet de loi n° 96 - Loi sur la langue officielle et commune du Québec, le français). Bill 96 introduced significant amendments to the Charter and strengthened the role and powers of the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), a government entity established by the Charter and preceded by similar organizations tasked with protecting the French language in Québec.
Bill 96 has a significant impact on businesses, government, non-profit organizations, and individuals in Québec, and beyond. Provisions for protecting the French language in Québec now apply to smaller companies and cover a much wider scope. Bill 96 is extensive (107 pages long).
Many of our clients have started adapting their content and communications to the changes that Bill 96 implies to their translation needs and the way they do business in Québec. So, we thought it would be useful to provide an overview of the main areas that will bring them into full compliance with Bill 96.
Written communications, including email messages and printed workplace communications, e.g., human resources, training, and employment-related communications, such as job offers, contracts, job descriptions, transfer, performance evaluation, promotion, and termination documents, must now be in French.
Employers advertising job offers in a language other than French must also make them available in French using equivalent media, capable of reaching an audience of a proportionally comparable size.
Employees now have the right to file a complaint with the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) if they believe they have been victims of discrimination or harassment due to a limited or lack of command of a language other than French in the workplace. In other words, employees in Québec now have the right to communicate exclusively in French in the workplace.
Bill 96 extends the francization requirements set out in the Charter to organizations with 25 or more employees. Before Bill 96, the requirement was for organizations with 50 or more employees.
Despite the lack of specific provisions to this effect, the Québec government has expressed its intent to require organizations under federal jurisdiction, such as telecommunication companies, banks, crown corporations, and interprovincial transportation companies e.g., airlines, trucking companies, railways, to comply with Bill 96 when operating in Québec.
Bill 96 applies to business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) relations. Québec businesses offering goods or services to consumers (B2C) must respect the consumer’s right to be informed and served in French. In fact, Bill 96 empowers consumers to sue businesses if they fail to meet this obligation.
Likewise, organizations providing B2B services e.g., management consulting firms advising banks, are now required to inform and serve their clients in French.
The above means that all commercial communications, including websites, brochures, catalogues, quotes, purchase orders, invoices, receipts, instructions, user manuals, and warranty documents must be in French, regardless of whether they are printed or digital. Consumer communications can also be in a language other than French if the French version is not less prominent. Furthermore, a requirement for French to be markedly predominant on exterior signage will come into force on June 1, 2025. This takes the Charter’s old requirement that French not be "less prominent" to the next level: marked predominance.
Penalties for infringement of Bill 96 are now part of language law in Québec. These now include fines and other administrative penalties such as suspension or revocation of permits for repeat offenders. Under Bill 96, the OQLF can request court injunctions to enforce compliance with the Charter (as amended by Bill 96), as well as court orders for the removal or destruction of posters, signs or advertisements that contravene the Charter, at the offender’s expense.
Starting June 1, 2023, with few exceptions, contracts of adhesion (also known as standard form contracts; those that are predetermined by one party and to which the other party “adheres” without negotiation, such as contracts with cellular carriers, airlines, banks, and insurance companies), and all related documentation must be first presented in French before the parties can jointly decide to be bound by a version drawn up in a language other than French.
Contracts entered into with Québec government entities must be exclusively in French, with few exceptions, regardless of whether the other party is operating in Québec or not.
Similarly, communications with the Québec government regarding public services, permits, authorizations, programs, subsidies, or financial assistance are now exclusively in French. Bill 96 states that immigrants can communicate with government agencies in a language other than French only during their first six months in Québec, after which public services will only be offered to them in French.
All applications, and their amendments, submitted to the Registre foncier (Land Register) must be in French.
Most contracts of purchase and sale or exchange of residential property must be in French. This new requirement also applies to promises to enter into those contracts and to any preliminary contracts and related documents for existing or future residential properties sold by a builder or a developer in Québec. Those contracts and other documents can only be in a language other than French if that is the express intent of the parties involved. However, if these documents are to be recorded in the Land Register, they must either be in French or accompanied by a certified translation into French.
Co-ownership declarations and any amendments to documents constituting a co-ownership or the description of co-ownership fractions can only be filed with the Land Register in French.
Documents filed with the Registre des droits personnels et réels mobiliers (Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights) must be in French. All documents accompanying an application for registration written in a language other than French must be accompanied by a certified translation into French.
Bill 96 provides that a certified translation into French must accompany any pleading drawn up in English. Otherwise, pleadings in English cannot be filed. Similarly, Bill 96 requires the certified translation of most foreign judgments and arbitration awards into French for them to be recognized by Québec courts.
Court judgments in English that terminate proceedings or are of public interest must be accompanied by a certified translation into French. Any judgment rendered in either French or English can be translated into the other language at the request of a party, with the government of Québec assuming all translation costs.
Québec-appointed judges no longer need to be proficient in a language other than French. Candidates to the Court of Québec, municipal courts, and provincial administrative tribunals cannot be required to be proficient in a language other than French, except when the Government of Québec decides that a non-French language is necessary for the position and that all reasonable means have been exhausted to prevent this from being necessary.
Bill 96 introduced unprecedented, explicit translation requirements that involve: a) translations into French of many different types of content and documents; and b) many of those translations being certified.
Compliance with Bill 96 can be proactive, planned, and budgeted, or result from enforcement action prompted by employees, consumers, or from OQLF’s independent monitoring. The first option is preferable and will likely be the most cost-effective. The second option might turn out to be more expensive, time-consuming, and even traumatic. Megalexis can support you in either scenario.
Depending on the extent and frequency of their Bill 96 compliance requirements, the options available for organizations and individuals range from hiring a freelancer (e.g., for the one-time translation of an official, personal document, university transcript, marriage certificate) to engaging a translation firm that can offer you a critical mass of certified language professionals to translate your website, HR documentation, product information, social media content, corporate and legal documents on an ongoing basis, and help you build, maintain, continuously improve, and leverage your linguistic assets to improve consistency and cost effectiveness.
There are other options, of course, such as over-the-counter machine translation applications, which we do not recommend because a) the translations used in the translation algorithm may not have been made by professionals or come from a reliable source (both Bills 101 and 96 are there not only to ensure the visibility of French, but also its quality in communications) and b) by using such applications, your source text will most likely be uploaded to a meta-database, which may entail proprietary, copyright or confidential issues. So, it’s not only about getting your content translated; it’s also about getting it translated professionally. In fact, for compliance purposes, the quality of the translation is just as important as the translation itself. In other words, a poor translation may have the same value as untranslated content.
Law firms, marketing and advertising agencies, accounting and management consulting firms, and other professional service organizations may also provide translation in addition to their core services. However, translation services offered by professional service organizations specialized in non-linguistic fields are likely to be subject to higher rates that result from either: a) subcontracting the services to freelance translators or translation firms, or b) cost structures associated with the provision of non-linguistic services.
Do you know what makes a good translation? We do: invisibility.
We can show you the light and make your published content shine. Using the latest in human intelligence translation, our professional translators, Megalexis can help you cap your language costs while ensuring compliance with Bill 96.
We are one of Québec’s leading translation firms, with offices in Montreal and the National Capital Region. Entrusting your translation requirements to Megalexis is not like doing business with a supplier based outside of Québec, or Canada. We know the Québec market well because we are locals. We live in and breathe Québec French.
Our translation team consists of Certified Translators, who are professional, specialized translators, including legal translators who are members of recognized professional associations, including the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec (OTTIAQ), provincial and territorial associations affiliated with the Canadian Translators and Interpreters Council (CTTIC), the Barreau du Québec (Québec Bar) and the Canadian Association of Legal Translators.
Megalexis’ commitment to delivering superior language services while nurturing human and business relationships with our clients, employees and suppliers contributes to our ability to attract the most talented linguists and language industry experts.
Don’t get caught up a creek without a paddle. Bill 96 compliance can be problematic, especially if it is neglected.
We are certified under CGSB-131.10-2017 and ISO 17100:2015, the highest national and international standards, respectively, for the provision of translation services. At Megalexis, we stand by our commitment to excellence and cost effectiveness while keeping up with the industry’s best practices. In short, we do not improvise. We deliver what we promise.
Our 40 years of continuous improvement and our status as a long-standing supplier of translation services to prominent public and private-sector clients in Québec and across Canada bear witness to our commitment to excellence. With Megalexis, you get the best of both worlds: superior language quality and cost-effectiveness.
We are in the best position to help your organization through francization and to offer you the professional, certified translation services you need to comply with Bill 96.
It is one prepared by a Certified Translator, generally accompanied by a formal declaration as to the completeness, truth, and accuracy of the translation.
“Certified Translator” is the professional designation granted to language professionals who are members in good standing of OTTIAQ, or one of the seven provincial associations that make up the CTTIC, i.e., Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia (STIBC), Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta (ATIA), Association of Translators and Interpreters of Saskatchewan (ATIS), Association of Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters of Manitoba (ATIM), Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO), Association of Translators and Interpreters of Nova Scotia (ATINS), Corporation of Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters of New Brunswick (CTINB).
In order to be granted the professional designation as a Certified Translator in Québec, applicants require a recognized university degree and the completion of OTTIAQ’s training program on ethics and professional conduct and practice.
The seven provincial associations that make up the CTTIC also grant the Certified Translator professional designation in their respective provinces based on academic credentials and professional experience criteria, in addition to successful completion of a mentorship program and a professional exam.
There are at least four reasons why employing a certified translator is important.
1) It’s a Legal Requirement
Bill 96 makes certified translation a legal requirement for certain types of documents, including those filed with the Registre foncier (Land Register) (Land Register), the Registre des droits personnels et réels mobiliers (Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights), and court pleadings. (Read our article Legal Translation: Who Can You Trust?)
2) Professional Translations
Certified Translators are professional translators. In order to receive the professional designation as certified translators, candidates need to meet specific requirements, which include university degrees, training and relevant experience. In the same way as other professionals such as doctors, accountants and psychologists, translators’ orders or associations certify that their members are competent and qualified to translate accurately and in accordance with a set of rules that include ethics and professional conduct. In addition, performance is subject to oversight, which means the public can report issues and there are discipline procedures in place. The professional designation can be withdrawn if a translator is found not to be worthy of it. (Read our article Translators, Those Magical Creatures to Be Tamed)
3) Quality, Risk Management and Peace of Mind
The Canadian standard for the provision of translation services (CGSB-131.10-2017), which compiles the best practices in the industry, requires translation service providers to use the services of certified translators to ensure high quality and minimize risk. At Megalexis, we are registered under CGSB-131.10-2017, we do employ certified translators, and we have ample insurance coverage for translation errors and omissions (fortunately, we have never needed to use it). We are also registered under ISO 17100:2015. (Read our article Why a Translation Standard? … It’s serious Business!)
It’s common to hear embarrassing, funny, or sometimes horrific stories of poor translations causing reputational damage to valuable brands, or worse, putting people, property, and business transactions at risk. By having your translations done by Megalexis’ certified professionals, you can ensure your translations are irreproachable.
4) It’s the Right Thing to Do
You would probably not have your financial statements prepared by someone other than a chartered professional accountant. You would most likely not trust psychotherapy services offered by someone other than a registered, licensed, certified or chartered psychologist (depending on your province). Would you have your translations done by someone other than a certified translator? (Read our article Experience Megalexis!)