What does Bill 96 mean for your business?



If you do business in Quebec, you know about French. But with all the talk about changes to the language laws, you may be wondering if there’s anything new you should be aware of.

The Quebec government has made changes in 7 broad areas:

Serving the public: All companies that do business in Quebec are now required to serve the public in French, not just those with physical locations in the province. This will particularly affect online retailers, although details are still being worked out. Local mom-and-pop operations with fewer than five employees are exempt.

Working in French: All Quebec companies with 25 or more employees must prove that they operate in French by obtaining a francization certificate. The former threshold was 50. Some companies will also be required to accept French-language training for their staff. There are also stronger provisions regarding employee documentation in French.

Advertising products and services: As before, you may only advertise in a language other than French if you also advertise in French, but there is now a requirement for French to be at least as prominent. This also applies to social media posts and other digital materials.

Requiring fluency in English: The French Language Charter has always required employers to demonstrate a need for fluency in English or another language before making it a job requirement. There is now a new burden of proof in this regard, although the Bill specifically states that it must not unreasonably disrupt the course of business.

Using trademarks: Non-French trademarks must now be registered before being used on product labelling or packaging, and their generic terms or descriptions must be translated. On signage, French must clearly predominate. Legal guidance is a good idea.

Drawing up contracts: There are now tighter French-language requirements for most real estate and standard consumer contracts. Exceptions exist, including for loan agreements, contracts related to financial risk, and out-of-province contracts. For dealings with the Quebec government, all contracts and related correspondence must be exclusively in French.

Filing a complaint: People who feel their language rights have been infringed can still file a complaint with the Office de la langue française, but they may also assert their rights through the courts.

There are also new provisions on providing certified translations of court proceedings, but these have been suspended until further notice.

TRSB can help

Navigating Quebec’s language landscape is what we do best. We can review all your requirements and suggest smart, cost-effective ways to comply with the law. We’ll identify risks and opportunities alike and provide turnkey management of your translation needs. Contact us today!