Legal Framework

About this Section

Canada is a federal state. Jurisdiction over language laws does not rest solely with the Federal Parliament or the provincial and territorial legislatures. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that language regulation stems from a principal precedent: Jones v. New Brunswick [SCC]. Therefore, if commercial advertising can be regulated, so can the language of the advertising: Devine v. Québec [SCC]. The legislative authority on linguistic aspects of any issue is therefore limited by the sharing of power among the federal level and the provinces and territories. It is also limited by those linguistic rights directly protected in constitutional laws. This means that these constitutional guarantees are more of a floor, and not a ceiling. One can legislate to add language rights to those protected in the Constitution: Jones v. New Brunswick [SCC], but we cannot legislate to repeal them: Blaikie v. Québec [SCC].

This section presents the legal framework for Official-Language bilingualism in Canada. It is organized by theme. Each topic will then be subdivided by jurisdiction: the constitutional framework, the federal government, the provinces, and territories.

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More information can be found in the Language Rights section of this site.

About the Author

Francois Larocque



François Larocque, full professor, holder of the Canadian Francophonie Research Chair in Language Rights, and 2021 Fellow, Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. BA, LLB, PhD. Professor Larocque studied philosophy and law at the University of Ottawa before completing his PhD at the University of Cambridge. He is a member of the Law Society of Ontario since 2002. His academic research, teaching and legal practice focus on the language rights of official language communities and Aboriginal peoples.

Past editors : Professor Pierre Foucher 

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He has served Director of the National Program (2005-2010), Vice Dean (2010-2012, 2015-2016) and Interim Dean (2016-2017) of the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section of the University of Ottawa. He is regularly invited as a speaker at national and international conferences. In recognition of his significant contributions to access to justice in French in Ontario and across Canada, François Larocque received the AJEFO's Order of Merit (2014), l'Ordre des francophones d'Amérique (2019) from the Conseil supérieur de la langue française and l'Ordre de la Pléiade (2020) de l'Assemblée parlementaire de la francophonie, Ontario Section.

For more information, please contact Professor Larocque: [email protected]

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