Bill 96: a judge suspends two articles of the new Quebec language law concerning legal translations

A group challenging Quebec’s new language law scored its first legal victory against the legislation on Friday, as a judge temporarily suspended a provision requiring English court documents to be translated into French.

Quebec Superior Court Judge Chantal Corriveau has ruled that sections of Bill 96 that require companies to pay a certified translator to produce French versions of legal documents could prevent some English-speaking organizations from accessing justice by the courts.

In a written judgment released Friday, Corriveau said the rule could cause delays and costs that could particularly hurt small and medium-sized businesses.

« In the present case, in the opinion of the court, the evidence demonstrates a serious risk that, in these cases, certain legal persons will not be able to assert their rights before the courts in a timely manner, or will be forced to do so in a language other than the official language which they and their lawyers have the best command of and which they identify as their own,” she writes.

The judge ordered that both articles be stayed until the case can be heard on the merits, likely in November.

A group of lawyers challenging the sections of the law argued that the translation requirement violates sections of the Constitution Act, 1867 that guarantee access to courts in both official languages.

According to court documents, the group claims that there are a limited number of certified legal translators, especially in certain regions, and that their services cost between $0.20 and $0.40 per word.

Members of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake also filed statements indicating that they were among the many groups that would be negatively affected by the law.

Lawyers representing the Attorney General of Quebec have pushed back against the idea that there are not enough translators or that the requirement creates barriers to access to justice.

On Friday, Elisabeth Gosselin, spokesperson for Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, said in an email response to the decision on Friday: « It should be noted that the provisions in this case are intended to promote better access to justice. in official and common jurisdictions. French language.

« The government is strongly committed to defending this fundamental right. We will not comment further at this time. »

Corriveau agreed that the lawyers have raised valid questions about obstacles to justice, particularly in urgent cases that « may require prompt intervention in court to avoid irreparable harm. »

Felix-Antoine Doyon, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said his clients believe in the need to protect the French language but believe the government has gone « very far » with certain provisions of Law 96.

« We must protect French but we must also protect access to justice, and we must remember that in a civilized society, justice is there for the people, and for legal persons as well, » he said. stated in a telephone interview. He said he expected to be ready to argue the case on the merits in November.

The lawyers are among several groups that are legally challenging Bill 96, which aims to strengthen the use of French through updated language regulations that affect businesses, junior colleges, immigration and the courts.

The law, which passed earlier this year, also proactively invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to shield it from Charter challenges.

Doyon noted that his challenge concerns only a very small part of the whole law and cautioned against drawing broader conclusions about what the ruling might mean for other challenges.

— This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 12, 2022.


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