Bill 96: When Can You Use a Language Other Than French?

Understanding the Law

Since June, French in Quebec has received even stronger protections under what is commonly referred to as “Bill 96”. In some situations, a newcomer to Quebec will be able to communicate in a language other than French. But understanding what those situations are can be complicated, especially if you haven’t been in the province for long. Let’s take a look at the different rules.

Government Bodies: in French After Six Months

During the first six months of your arrival in Quebec, you can communicate in a language other than French with

  • a hospital,
  • a school service centre (previously known as a “school board”), and
  • any governement body.

After six months, you can continue to communicate in the language of your choice. However, these institutions are required to respond to you in French.

Did you know?

There is an exception. When a public health or safety concern is at stake, the government body may use French as well as another language in written communications. The government has not yet clarified the scope of this exception.

Flexible Rules in the Workplace

In the workplace, you can use the language of your choice for verbal and written communications. This applies to communications with both your employer and your colleagues.

However, your employer is required to write certain documents in French only. These include offers of employment or promotion.

By contrast, you can obtain your employment contract in a language other than French. However, you must expressly request this, and obtain your employer’s consent. Similarly, your employer can communicate with you in another language in writing, provided that you both agree to it.

Language Rights in Court Remain Unchanged

Your language rights in court have not changed. You can still express yourself in both English and French, and submit court documents in both languages.

However, the provincial government may appoint judges who are not bilingual. The judge who hears your case may therefore not always be fluent in English.