Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec (the "Bill 96"), which was passed by the Québec government on May 24, 2022 and assented on June 1, 2022, aims "to affirm that the only official language of Québec is French." To that end, Bill 96 makes several amendments to the Charter of the French language and to several other Acts, including the Civil Code of Québec. These amendments bring about significant changes in various commercial activities such as signage and commercial advertising, employment-related documents and product packaging and labelling.
Another one of the significant changes resulting from Bill 96 is that, as of Sept. 1, 2022, applications for registration in Québec public registers must be drawn up exclusively in French. This new requirement affects all documents registered in the Québec Land Register including, notably, but without limitation, deeds of sale, deeds of transfer of an immovable, deeds of immovable hypothec, notices of lease, deeds of servitude, co-ownership declarations and deeds of mainlevée (release and discharge.) The only exception is for amendments to deeds already registered at the Land Registry Office in a language other than French before June 1, 2022. Applications for registration in the Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights ("RPMRR") are also affected by this new requirement, as they must also be drawn up exclusively in French. However, the impacts of Bill 96 are likely less significant with respect to applications for registration at the RPMRR than at the Land Register. Indeed, applications for registration at the RPMRR are made using a prescribed form, contrary to applications for registration in the Land Register which are made by submitting the entire deed or a summary or extract thereof to the registrar. In other words, deeds creating personal or movable real rights (such as movable hypothecs) only can continue to be drawn up in the English language, provided the information contained in the prescribed form (e.g., description of the property affected by the movable hypothec) is drawn up in the French language.
With respect to applications for registration at the Land Register, issues arise when one of the parties to a deed does not read French. As a solution to this issue, many financial institutions are opting for having both a French and an English version of the same standard document: the English version is provided to the client for clear understanding of their rights, obligations and covenants under the deed they are required to enter into, but only the French version of the deed is registered. In cases where the deed is only available in the French language, counsels will likely have to play an increasingly important role in explaining to their client the extent of their rights, obligations and covenants thereunder. For parties who wish to continue to enter into deeds drawn up in the English language then, for purposes of registration in the Land Register, the English deed must be accompanied by a certified French translation, which will increase the costs related to the transaction.
As is usually the case when important legislative changes are implemented, uncertainties will arise and practices will change. Businesses, lawyers and notaries in Québec have already had to adapt their practices to meet Bill 96's new requirement that applications for registration must be drawn up exclusively in French, and will have to continue to adapt as new practices develop in the real estate and financing industries as a result of this new requirement.
For more information on Bill 96 and how it will impact business operations, please visit our June 2022 article here.