A first ruling on Bill 96: Québec's Superior Court stays two provisions of the controversial language law

4 minute read
16 August 2022

On August 12, 2022, the Superior Court of Québec issued a first ruling on a challenge to Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec[1] (the "Bill"), which introduced important modifications to Québec's Charter of the French Language[2].

The proceedings instituted by Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of two provisions of the Bill:

  • That requiring that "a French translation certified by a certified translator shall be attached to any pleading drawn up in English that emanates from a legal person," and that said legal person bear the costs of translation[3]; and
  • That establishing that a pleading that contravenes the requirement above cannot be filed in court or with an agency of the civil administration that exercises an adjudicative function[4].

These provisions were set to come into effect on September 1, 2022. In this judgement, the Superior Court stayed their entry into force until the case is heard on its merits, which could occur as soon as November 2022. 

In addition to the constitutional argument, Plaintiffs alleged that the provisions at issue will impede access to the courts for businesses whose representatives are English-speaking, and that the additional cost and time required to obtain a certified translation will create a barrier to justice. Plaintiffs also argued that these provisions could present significant obstacles in urgent proceedings.

The Court accepted these arguments, and ruled that Plaintiffs had satisfied their burden of proof in order to obtain a stay. It thus suspended the application of the provisions at issue until a final judgement is rendered on the merits, notwithstanding appeal.

This judgement does not however impact any of the other provisions of Bill 96, which will remain in force or enter into force as per the timeline set out in the Bill.

We also note that another challenge to Bill 96 has been filed by the English Montreal School Board, which argues that the Bill infringes the right of English-speaking Quebecers to the management and control of minority language education guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Gowling WLG is monitoring the ongoing challenges to Bill 96, and will provide further updates as these become available.

[1] Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec, 2nd Sess, 42nd Leg, Quebec 2022 (assented to 1 June 2022), SQ 2022 ("Bill 96").

[2] Charter of the French Language, CQLR c C-11 (the "Charter").

[3] Bill 96, section 5, amending section 9 of the Charter.

[4] Bill 96, section 119, introducing section 208.6 of the Charter.

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