Legal Framework

Introduction to the Language of Services to the Public

This section examines the legislative and regulatory dispositions concerning the language in which government institutions offer their services to the public. It is comprised of three parts: Constitutional provisions, federal law, and provincial and territorial laws.

Constitutional Provisions

Two jurisdictions are formally subject to constitutional requirements on this subject: the federal government and New Brunswick. These are new constitutional rights since no guarantee of public services in one’s official language existed in the Canadian constitution before 1982.

Paragraph 20(1) of the Charter obliges parliamentary institutions and the Government of Canada to communicate with the public and offering services in certain situations. “The public” has never been defined in jurisprudence: It is presumed that it includes all persons physically or morally or of any government that is not part of the “institutions of Parliament or of the government of Canada.” In Société des Acadiens, Judge Beetz defines “communication” as comprising the act of a person addressing the institution as well as the institution’s response. The notion of “service” has not been the object of a defined jurisprudence, but in DesRochers v. Canada, the courts established that a governmental federal program of community economic development was subjected to section 20(1). Meanwhile, in R v Comeau, the provincial court of Nova Scotia presumed that communication by short waves from the Canadian coastal guard is a service.

The bilingual requirement applies to the head office or to the central administration of a federal institution, regardless of where it is situated. Moreover, the right extends to the bureau where the use of English or French is the object of substantial demand, or again where the use of the two languages is justified by the nature of the office. The law specifies conditions on the applicability of this right by defining “substantial demand” or “nature of the office.”

In New Brunswick, the right of the public to receive services from institutions of the legislature or of the government applies to the entire territory of the province. Otherwise, the notions of “public,”  of “bureau,”  and “legislative institution or government” remain to be defined. In Société des Acadiens et Acadiennes du Nouveau-Brunswick v. Canada (G.R.C.), the Supreme Court determined that the federal police remains at all times a federal institution subject to the Federal linguistic laws, but that if it offers police services for the province, it also becomes subject to section 20(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and should offer bilingual service across the entire territory. For the Court, on the Queen’s Bench in R. v. Gautreau, as well as for two judges of the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick in R. v. Haché, the communication between a police officer and an accused is a “service” with regard to section 20. The law provides the linguistic obligations of the police forces in New Brunswick.

In Charlebois v. Moncton, the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick found that the municipalities were “institutions of the legislature and of the government” subject to the constitutional requirements on the subject of adopting bilingual laws. The law provided a linguistic regime for the municipalities of New Brunswick.

In R. v. Losier, the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick established that section 20(2) includes the obligation of an “active offer” of the service on the part of the police officers and that a violation of that right could result in the exclusion of evidence. It can be reasonably argued that this requirement extends also to the federal level.

Federal Laws

Part IV of the Official Languages Act sets out the rights guaranteed by section 20(1) of the Charter. Part IV is complex and detailed.

Section 21 sets out the principle that the public has the right to communicate with federal institutions and to receive services that correspond to the dispositions in Part IV. Part IV, therefore, implements the right provided in section 20 but does not necessarily represent all the situations or rights recognized therein, since the Constitution is nevertheless the supreme law of Canada.

Section 22 requires federal institutions to ensure that the public may communicate with them or receive their services in either official language, in their central offices. The section adds that this right extends also to all other offices (including any place where services are offered by a federal institutions—for example, on-site inspections by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or by Fisheries and Oceans Canada) situated in the national capital region, or in any other office where the use of this language is object of substantial demand, whether it is situated in Canada or abroad.

Paragraph 23(1) requires such an obligation of federal institutions that offer services to travelers, in the regions where, in Canada or abroad, the use of that language is the object of a substantial demand.

Paragraph 32(1a) permits the government to fix by regulation the places where there is a substantial demand for purposes of sections 22 and 23.

The Official Languages Regulation: Communications with the Public and the Provision of Services, sets out a series of situations where one may presume that there is a substantial demand. Essentially, the regulation creates the obligation when the office of the institution serves a territory or where a certain proportion—or absolute number— of persons belonging to the linguistic minority, as calculated by methods from Statistics Canada. Exceptions do exist: For the offices  that serve a “restricted and identifiable clientele”; ship-to-shore communications; immigration services in certain ports of entry in Canada; services other than immigration at ports of entry other than an airport or harbour in certain provinces and only if at least 5% of the demand is in the official language; search and rescue operations in designated ships or airplanes, in certain cases; maritime communication services in certain locations; air control services in certain locations; search and rescue operations in designated craft in certain other cases; services at the airport, railway stations, and harbour terminals in certain cases; services onboard aircraft in certain cases (in practice only Air Canada is subject to this requirement); services onboard trains (in practice only Via Rail is subject to this requirement); services onboard federal ferries.

In Donnie Doucet v. Canada, the federal court judged that the regulation such as it existed was unconstitutional because it did not include the services of the office of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in a region where the numbers and percentages of persons belonging to the linguistic minority did not meet the official criteria, but where the volume of traffic was proof of a substantial demand on the Trans-Canada highway between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The regulation was modified to include this office.

To return to the Law, paragraph 23(2) extends the linguistic obligations to “third parties” that offer services to travelers through the offices mentioned in paragraph 23(1) (the federal institutions that offer services to travelers where there is a substantial demand, or in the national capital region), according to the modalities of the regulation. The Regulation provides for certain cases in article 12: Restaurants, cafeterias, car rental agencies, exchange bureaus, tax-free boutiques, travel insurance, road transport distributors, hostelling services, self-service devices including automated teller machines, the instructions in public telephones, the instructions of electronic video games, screening and boarding of passengers; public announcements; services at any carrier’s counter, including ticketing and registration, but excluding bus services. The requirement extends to printed documents: Menus, signposts, travel insurance policies, car rental contracts. Let us highlight that these requirements apply to any third party, including airline companies, rental companies, or others. On board airplanes, only Air Canada must respect these requirements.

Section 24 of the Law deals with the “nature of the office.” Several situations are targeted: When the office touches the health or security of the public, by way of the location of this office; the national or international character of the office’s mandate; every other circumstance provided for in the regulations; any other institutions required to report their activities to parliament (paragraph 24(3) lists seven).

The Regulation has specified these circumstances.

Section 8 of the Regulations deals with health and security: if the bureau provides first-aid emergency services, in a clinic or infirmary at the airport, a railway station, or ferry terminal; standard written messages for the health and safety of the public, for passengers on board airplanes, trains, ferries, or at the airport, train, or harbour terminals, or for the public in federal buildings or adjacent grounds; or standard written messages to warn the public against radioactive, explosive, chemical, biological, environmental, or other similar dangers.

Section 9 covers the location of offices: a national park or historical national park; at least one post office per park; an office in the proximity of said park, for the services that are not offered there; an office in Yukon or in the NWT where there are the most requests for services in French.

Section 10 covers the national or international character of the office: a diplomatic mission, a consular post; an office that organizes expositions, competitions, major games or participates in them; an office that provides immigration services to a greater number of persons at a port-of-entry in Canada; an office that offers services other than immigration, in a port-of-entry other than an airport, where the largest number of persons enter Canada in each province.

Section 11 covers other cases: toll-free or local calling services, for an office serving a whole province or more; automatic systems; signaling systems in airports, railway, or harbour terminals, notably in transportation services or in baggage claims.

To come back to the Official Languages Act, section 25 extends the obligations to all institutions operating “on behalf” of a federal institution. In DesRochers v. Canada, the federal Court of Appeal decided that this applies to organizations created or closely controlled by a federal institution in terms of their functioning or mandate.

Section 26 requires a federal institution that regulates active third parties on the subject of health or security, the obligation to ensure that these third parties can offer their services in either official language.

Section 27 specifies that the linguistic requirements apply to both oral and written forms.

Section 28 sets out for the federal institutions the obligation to provide an active offer, in written form, orally and in person, of the availability of bilingual services.

Section 29 requires bilingual signs in all federal institutions.

Section 30 requires federal institutions to communicate via media that enable effective communication with everyone in the official language of their choice.

Section 31 specifies that Part IV has precedence over Part V ( the working language of public officials).

Section 32 delegates regulatory powers to the government.

A proposed draft law requires distance from numerical criteria in order to evaluate a substantial demand for services and instead to base itself on the indices of vitality like the presence of a minority language school or of minority language institutions. The federal government continually revises its regulations.

Provincial and Territorial Laws


The Language Act does not contain any provision related to the language of services to the public. 

The government adopted a French Policy in 2017 to help ministries improve their French-language services and support the vitality of the Francophone community in Alberta. The Policy applies to all Alberta government departments, agencies, boards and commissions. The Policy states that Alberta is not a bilingual province, but that the government is committed to taking into account the needs of Alberta's francophone community and to improving French language services and communications in a targeted and sustainable manner, based on available resources.

The Policy recognizes the important historical impact of the Franco-Albertan community and also acknowledges that Alberta's Francophone population is growing. The Policy also states in several places that where the government provides services in French, the quality of those services will be comparable to services provided in English. While the Policy recognizes the importance of active offer, it does not identify the specific services that the province offers in French.

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British Columbia

No legislative provision exists that touches the language of services to the public. Services are offered in English.


Section 23 of the Manitoba Act (1870) does not contain explicit provisions for governmental services in French. In 1983-1984 the government proposed constitutional modifications to guarantee French services in Manitoba, but the failure of that proposition resulted in Reference re Manitoba Language Rights where the Supreme Court’s opinion was set out in 1985. The Court concluded that section 23 of the Manitoba Act of 1870 had always been in force and that the laws adopted in English only were unconstitutional and should be translated. The Court did not make a statement on the subject of the language of services.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, legislative activity has intensified in Manitoba. A French Language Services Policy was adopted and came into force in 1999. It set out that in the designated regions, designated services shall be offered in French. It sets out French language services coordinators and mechanism for reporting grievances before the Manitoban Francophone Affairs Secretariat (who is in charge of the elaboration and practice of the policy, which makes him judge and party at the same time).

In 2016, Manitoba adopted the Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act. Of note is the fact that the Act defines the Manitoban Francophonie as the community that gathers “those persons in Manitoba whose mother tongue is French and those persons in Manitoba whose mother tongue is not French but who have a special affinity for the French language and who use it on a regular basis in their daily life”. This enlarges the number of Francophones in terms of the law. Section 2 establishes the objective of the law as the enhancement of the Manitoban Francophonie and support for their development. Section 3 sets out the principles: Recognition, Active Offer, Collaboration and Dialogue, and Progress. Section 4 institutes a Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs where one of his mandates is “acting as an advocate” so that the needs of the Francophonie are taken into account and equitable resources are set aside for them. Section 5 establishes the legislative status of the French Language Services Policy and requires a quinquennial revision. Section 6 creates and defines the mandate of the Manitoban Francophone Affairs Secretariat. Section 7 urges him to support the advisory committee whose creation is provided for in section 8. Section 10 describes the mandate of the Committee. Section 11 requires  each public entity (and not only to designated institutions) to adopt a multiannual strategic plan, which should be tied to the priorities of the community, announce the measures it will take and its capacity for providing services in French, provide services offered by third parties on its behalf, those of the administrative tribunals which are tied to it, and every other measure. Paragraph 11(2) integrates the plans of the regional health offices and management services for children and families. Section 12 permits the Minister to send the propositions of the plan to the Advisory Committee. Section 13 authorizes the minister to approve the plans propositions. Article 14 requires that public entities inform the minister periodically on the implementation of the approved plan. The law contains another innovation: The senior officials of the Legislative Assembly should also prepare propositions towards the strategic plan on French services and have them approved by the board of directors of the Assembly. Section 16 requires the Minister to prepare and deposit before the Assembly a report on specific measures. Section 17 delegates regulatory power. Section 18 preserves the existing linguistic rights. There is no limiting clause. Let us point out that the law does not create linguistic rights but rather arranges the use of French in governmental services.

The Bilingual Service Centers Act modified in 2013 and 2016, institutes these centres in each designated region by virtue of the policy in order to be able to make an active offer of services in French and to encourage the use of French as a language of work. The government can modify the annex to add more regions. According to the criteria set out in paragraph 4(2). The Minister deposits a report with the assembly.

Moreover, the province adopted The Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain Act, which creates and entrenches this institution. The same applies for The Université de Saint-Boniface Act.

The Bilingual and Francophone Facilities and Programs Designation Regulation and the French Language Services Regulation, Amendment of the Regional Health Authorities Act, French Language Services Regulation, organise health needs in French in the province. Manitoba Health is equipped with a Designation Policy for Francophone and Bilingual Facilities, Programs and Services. There exists a French Language Services Regulation which was adopted in light of The Child and Family Services Authorities Act.

New Brunswick

The Official Languages Act has been extensively modified in 2002 and adjusted in 2013 and 2016. The law applies to government institutions and the legislative assembly, which are defined in article 1; However, article 4 excludes teaching and culturally distinct institutions, including schools, boards, community centres, universities and community colleges. Moreover, the New Brunswick Regulations (2015) specifies at the end of the definition, the subdivisions of these public services “are those that figure in annex I of the Public Service Labour Relations Act.

Section 5.1 is the new right: The province must establish a plan for respecting the obligations of under the law.

Section 27 reproduces article 20(2) of the Charter. Section 28 transforms that right into an obligation for institutions. Section 28.1 requires an active offer. Section 29 targets the publication of bilingual postings, public announcements, and other communications. Section 30 extends these obligations to third parties acting on behalf of the government.

Sections 31 and 32 are the new rights and touch on the police services provided across the province. The ruling Société des Acadiens et Acadiennes du Nouveau-Brunswick Inc. v. Canada extends to the obligations of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police whenever it acts as a provincial police force. Section 31 gives to every member of the public the right to be served by an agent of the peace in the official language of their choice and be so informed. In the ruling R v. McGraw, it was determined that the obligation to inform is peremptory and the choice of language can not be assumed. The ruling R v. Losier specified that the notification must be given at first contact. Paragraph 31(2) allows for the agent that can not offer the service immediately to take necessary measures, within a reasonable delay, to make sure the respect of the given choice. Paragraph 31(3) requires the police force to take measures in order to permit the exercise of this right. Paragraph 31(4) indicates that in the determination of “reasonable” delay, the agent of the peace should keep in mind the efforts of the police force to provide such a service. Finally, section 32 protects the other linguistic rights and obligations imposed on the police force.

Sections 33 and 34 target health needs. They apply to facilities and programs under the authority of either the Minister or the regional rules. Paragraph 33(2) requires the health minister to ensure the availability of these needs in the two official languages when he elaborates his provincial health plans. Section 34 specifies a hospital or other health establishment should function in its usual language of work, on condition that they also maintain the requirement to serve the public in the official language of their choice. Section 19 of the Regional Health Authorities Act regulates the language of administration and institutions. Paragraph (1) sets out that the Network A (which is called the Vitality Health Network) functions in French and that Network B (which is called Horizon Health Network) functions in English. Sections 20(8) states that the committee of administrators and its members function in the language of the administration. Sections 40 requires them to provide simultaneous interpretation in the two official languages for public meetings. Paragraph 19(2) requires that the administrators respect the habitual language of operation of the institutions concerned, and ensure, through their network, the provision of health services to members of the public in the official language of their choice.  Finally, paragraph 19(3) requires both to improve the delivery of health services in French.

Sections 35 and 38 target municipalities. Section 35 touches on the language of by-laws and applies to eight wards and to any municipality that is comprised of at least 20% of an official language minority population. Section 36 imposes the obligation of providing communications and services prescribed by regulation. Regulation 2002-63 sets out the services and communications that have to be available in the two languages int he targeted municipalities. Section 37 permits every other municipality to declare itself bound by these provisions. In Charlebois v. Moncton, the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick suggested in obiter that measures such as those in section 35 would be within reasonable limits in regards to the language of by-laws. In Charlebois v. Riverview, the applicant sought to have section 35 declared unconstitutional, but his request was rejected due to procedural reasons.

Sections 39 to 41 target the regional service commissions that serve a territory in which the minority language population comprise at least 20% of the total population. The same goes for those whose territory covers a municipality mentioned in section 35(1) or (2). According to section 41, the commissions must offer their services in the two languages prescribed by the regulations.

Section 41.1 is the new right. It targets all the professional associations that regulate access to professions. Section 41.1(2) requires them to offer services and communications to their members in the two languages. Section 41.4 requires the same provision in terms of communications and services for the public.

Section 43 created the position of the Commissioner of Official Languages and organizes it.

The law does not provide for any legal recourse.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Since 2015, Newfoundland and Labrador has instituted a French-language Services Policy. This policy is not extensively developed, but it represents a first point of departure. It specifies the responsibilities of the Office of French Services (OFS) under the Human Resource Secretariat and which are: the coordination, French-language training, translation, language support and community networking. This primer of a policy does not create rights to French language services.

Northwest Territories

Sections 8 and 11 of the Official Languages Act, contain requirements on the subject of services to the public. The law enshrines French and English as official languages as well as 9 other Aboriginal languages as “official Aboriginal languages,” where their rights are not exactly identical to each other.

Section 8 requires the writings that are issued by the government or another state body to be drawn up in French, English, and in any other official language designated by regulation.

Section 11 governs the language of services to the public. Paragraph 11(1) reproduces section 22 of the federal law: Each can use French or English to communicate with the central administration of a governmental institution, or for receiving services, as well as in other offices where a substantial demand exists or if the nature of the office justifies it. Paragraph 11(2) accords this right for every other official language if there is a substantial demand or according to the nature of the office, and according to paragraph  11(3), the collective rights of the Aboriginal peoples must be taken into account in regards to the subject of language according to the land claim agreements.

In the ruling Fédération Franco-Ténoise, delivered in 2006, the territorial Court found several breaches of the obligations found in section 11 and ruled in favour of reparations, of which a substantial part were confirmed by the Court of Appeal. The Government Institution Regulations lists the organizations designated for the purpose of the law and designates four communities (Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, and Inuvik) in regards to substantial demand; section 3 lists the criteria for the nature of the office. The GNWT Standards for French Communications and Services were adopted in July 2013.

Nova Scotia

The province adopted a French-Language Services Act in 2004. Section 5 establishes the responsibilities of the Ministry of Communities, Culture, and Heritage, and section 6 gives it the mandate to counsel the government on the subject of offering services in French, in consultation wiMinisterinister of Acadian Affairs and Francophonie. Section 7 requires an annual report of the minister. Article 8 establishes the coordinators of French language services. Section 9 institutes the French-language Services Coordinating Committee. Section 10 delegates regulatory powers. It is worth noting that the law does not accord any right to French-language services, but rather governs the use of the French language at the heart of the government apparatus. No legal recourse or mechanism for filing grievances is provided for in the law.

The French-language Services Regulations adopted in 2006 completes the law. Section 4 requires that each designated public institution presents an annual plan for French-language services. Section 5 specifies what must be contained in this plan. Section 6 requires taking into account the priorities formulated by the Acadian community.  8 requires that the plans report on the progress made by the institution. Section 9 requires that the ministers responsible for these institutions should ensure the realisation of the plans. Section 10 specifies the content of the annual reports of the minister. Section 11 requires the Office of Acadian and Francophone Affairs to publish an annual list of coordinators of French-language services.

Section 12 specifies certain obligations on the part of the designated institutions: Respond in French to all correspondence written in French; attach a bilingual logo to every document disseminated simultaneously in the two languages; take reasonable measures to make the public aware of the availability of these services. Section 13 requires the institution follows the criteria so as to choose the documents to be disseminated in the two languages: Its pertinence for the Acadian community; its report on the French-language services offered; where failure to do so would compromise the health or safety of the public. Section 14 requires that every document coming from the Office of Acadian and Francophone Affairs be bilingual. Section 15 requires the Office to consult regularly with the community. Section 16 requires that the services in French are subjected to at least one provincial public consultation session. Section 17 requires institutions to ensure that third parties providing services on their behalf comply with the same obligations. Section 18 requires that each designated institution encourage members of the Acadian community to be part of the organisations whose members are mentioned by the province. Section 19 preserves established conventions, and section 20 presents a clause regarding reasonable and necessary limits.

Annex A provides a list of designated organisations.


Sections 11 and 12 of the Official Languages Act specify the obligations that apply to the government and to public organizations of the territory, which are defined in article 1 as including every organisation created by the laws of Nunavut, placed under the authority of the minister or executive council, and is within the meaning of article 1(1) of the Financial Administration Act. Let us not forget that in Nunavut there are three official languages: English, French, and Inuit.

Section 11 deals with written matter: Territorial institutions post in the official languages, use them in their written acts and ensure that each language is represented. Paragraph 11(2) requires the head of the institution to develop and maintain policies for the implementation of this obligation.

Section 12 deals with the provision of services and communications. Paragraph 12(1) gives the right to members of the public to communicate with a territorial institution in one of the official languages. The requirement is mandatory for central offices. It extends, according to paragraph 11(3), to the office where there is a substantial demand for services ascertained either by the proportion of the population whose mother tongue is the official language, or by the volume of communications between that office and its users in each of the official languages, which means that an office can be designated to receive all communications in one language, for example. It extends also, according to paragraph 11(4) , to the offices whose vocation justifies it, according to either its scope, its results, or the importance of these services in a region, geographical zone, or across the whole territory; or also the relevance of the service for the health, security, and protection of the public, or for other similar questions provided for in the regulations. Paragraph 11(5) is the new right: It permits the Commissioner in Council (the government) to designate offices if it can revitalize an Aboriginal language. Paragraph 11(6) extends the obligation found in article 11 to written and oral mediums. Paragraph 11(7) requires the responsible administration to take measures to make an active offer of service, make services available on demands, adapt services make them culturally relevant, ensure that they are of comparable quality, ensure that third parties action on behalf of the government respect the same requirements,  and to develop and maintain policies to make rights operational. Finally, section 11(8) extends the obligation to municipalities to the extent prescribed in the regulation.

The Inuit Language Protection Act contains additional provisions on the subject. They apply to territorial institutions, to municipalities, and to the private sector. Section 3 sets out the requirement to post billboards in the Inuit language and to offer reception and customer services in the Inuit language. Paragraph 3(2) specifies that the following services should be provided in the Inuit language: essential emergency, health, medical, pharmaceutical services; household services, accommodation services; other services specified by the regulations where applicable. Paragraph 3(3) specifies that the requirement touches on notices and warnings, accounts, invoices, claims, and other forms specified by regulation. Paragraph 3(4) extends the obligation to oral and written services.

Section 4 requires that contracts concluded by the government or a public organization extend the language requirement of article 3 to third party contractors, subject to an exemption granted by the government.

Section 6 extends the requirement for offering services in the Inuit language regardless of the demand for the following services: street signs, maps, traffic signs; municipal services tied to the social well-being; the municipal notices to the public, the enforcement of municipal regulations and contraventions; the interpretation of municipal council session, and of other services prescribed by regulation.

Section 7 requires that documents sent to municipalities by the government for public scrutiny are accompanied by an Inuit translation.


Section 5 of the French-language Services Act established the language requirements of governmental organizations, defined largely in section 1, which excludes, however, municipalities, and local councils. According to Section 5 (1), each can obtain services in French from a central office or governmental organization. The provision extends the right to offices that serve or are found in a designated region. Paragraph 5(2) allows the government to designate one or more offices for the purposes of providing services when the same service is offered in many offices of a designated regions, in which case, according to paragraph 5(3), the obligation of paragraph 5(1) does not apply to the others. Section 7 enacts a clause for reasonable and necessary limits.

Section 8 prescribes the procedure for designating organizations and regions and allows the regulation to exempt services if that does not compromise the purpose of the law. Article 9 allows the restrict the types of services offered in French. Section 10 imposes requirements for a regulation which exempts certain services, revokes designations of organizations offering public services, or seeks to exclude or subtract services from the scope of the designation.

Section 11 prescribes the powers of the minister. Section 12 institutes the Office of Francophone Affairs and specifies its mandate. Section 12.1 institutes the post of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner.

The annex enumerates the designated regions.

The Designation of Public Service Agencies enumerates more than 200 non-profit organizations that offer services and that are designated for the purposes of enforcing the law.

In Lalonde v. Ontario (Commission de Restructuration de Services de Santé), the Court of Appeal of Ontario deemed that the recommendations made by the commission targeting the closure or the reduction in services of Montfort Hospital—the only French-language Hospital in Ontario—  would violate the law because the hospital had been designated under section 8 and that the procedures in section 10 concerning the reductions of designated services were not followed.

The Provision of French Language Services on Behalf of Government Agencies extends the obligations of section 5 to third parties that act on behalf of the government.

Prince Edward Island

The French Language Services Act of 2013 provides certain measures related to the language of services to the public. Section 3 of the law states that designated services in designated regions must be offered in French according to regulation. Moreover, section 3 imposes on governmental institutions the obligation of informing the public of the availability of services, and that these must be of comparable quality to those services offered in English. Finally, the requirement extends to third parties acting on behalf of government institutions.

Section 4 specifies that the institution receiving correspondence shall reply in the same language. Section 5 requires taking into account Acadian cultural ties to the names of communities and toponymic signs. Section 6 requires the government to take into account the equitable participation of Acadians whenever appointing persons to bodies, boards, or commissions.

Section 7 sets out specific responsibilities for the minister in charge of enforcing the law and section 8 institutes an advisory board charged with establishing the community’s priorities. Section 9 states that each institution should be staffed with a French services coordinator and article 10 requires that each institution prepare annual plans for services in French and a report for the Minister. Sections 11 through 14 institute a mechanism for reporting grievances. Sections 15 and 16 provide the regulatory mechanism. Section 17 sets out a reasonable and necessary limit clause. Section 18 advocates for the equal value of French and English versions.


The Charter of French Language aims to make French the language of public administration in Québec.

Section 14 requires the French designation of ministers and bodies.

Section 15 imposes the use of French for the texts and documents of the Administration. Paragraph (2) exempts external relations from the requirements, press releases disseminated by information media that broadcast in one or other language, and correspondence with individuals. Section 16 requires the use of French in written communications with other governments or with legal entities “established in Québec” (and not incorporated in Québec). Section 17 requires the exclusive use of French in the communications between ministers and Québec organizations and the same applies in article 18 for internal written government communications. Section 19 requires French for the announcements of meetings, agendas and deliberative meetings of the administration.

Section 20 requires appropriate knowledge of the official language to obtain an appointment or promotion in the public service. Each organization establishes its own modes of verification and submits them to the Quebec Office of the French Language, who approves or establishes them itself. Section 21 requires that French be used for government contracts, but they can also be in another language when the contract takes place outside of Québec. Section 22 requires French as the language of advertising, except if the health or security of the population is at stake. Paragraph 22(3) permits the stipulation of the cases in which another language may be used according to the regulation. The Regulation Respecting the Signs and Posters of Civil Administration allows the use of another language on billboards when they are 15 kilometres from a port-of-entry to Québec, with French-language predominance; in commercial activities, if that is done over billboards visible from the road or in public transit; public posting in a museum, botanical garden, zoo, a cultural or scientific exposition, can also be done in French and in another language if the French is equivalent (and not predominant).

Section 29.1 gives the Québec Office for the French Language the power to recognize and designate, on request, the municipalities where more than 50% of the residents have English as a mother tongue; the organizations coming from these municipalities; the health and social services institutions if they provide services in person to a language majority other than French. It is the government that can withdraw a designation following the advice of the OQLF. When a designation has been obtained, the organization can use another language, but remains subject to the obligations in regards to French: According to section 23, it should ensure that its services are available in French; draft their notices, communications, and printed materials in French; establish the modalities through which they dispense their services. According to section 24, the posting can be in French and in another language with predominance for the French. Section 26 allows them to use at the same time French and another language in their denomination, their internal communications, and their communications between each other. Educational organisations are only allowed to use the language of teaching: section 28. Section 27 targets the documentation in clinical files dealing with health or social services, which can be in the language of the author’s choice, but each service can require the exclusive use of French; the summaries must be provided in French upon request.

Sections 30 through 40 cover the para-public organizations, notably, the organizations that regulate entry into a profession. They should offer their services in French and use French in all their notices, communications, and printed materials destined for a public audience. Section 30.1 requires them to provide in French all notices, reports, or opinion papers that they draft and that concern the applicant. Section 31 requires them to use French in their communications with the government. Section 32  requires the use of French in their communications with their members, but they can respond in the language of the specific member. Section 33 exempts the communications or advertising destined towards the media who disseminate their material in another language. Section 34 requires a French denomination. Section 35 created a stir: it requires that the professional orders not grant permits to an individual unless he can demonstrate an appropriate knowledge of French. Paragraph 35(2) sets out three situations under which appropriate knowledge can be assumed: The person has undergone at least three years of secondary or post-secondary schooling in French, or the person has passed the fourth or fifth year secondary level examinations in French as the mother tongue, or the person has obtained a certificate of secondary studies in Québec. Otherwise, the person must obtain a certificate issued by the Québecois Office of the French Language or hold a certificate defined as equivalent by the regulation of the government. Paragraph 35 (4) states that a regulation can organize the evaluation.

The Regulation Respecting the Issue of Certification of Knowledge of the Official Language for the Purpose of Admission to Professional Orders and Certain Equivalents to those Certificates effectively put in place a mechanism for assessing the written and oral French language knowledge and comprehension. The regulations lay down the modalities for the exam. In Forget v. Quebec, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the requirement of language knowledge and its methods for verification did not constitute a form of discrimination based on language because they did not establish arbitrary distinctions. Section 36 of the law requires that a person registered in courses leading to a license to practice can have their French language knowledge verified up to two years prior the acquisition of their diploma. Section 37 authorizes the professional orders to deliver temporary permits for those outside of Québec if their only obstacle to ascension to the profession is the French language, and section 38 permits three renewals. Finally, section 40 permits the professional orders, under the authorization of the OQLF, to deliver a restricted permit to authorized professionals in light of the law of another province or another country, if they work for a single employer and are not in contact with the public.


Since 2009, Saskatchewan has had a French-language Services Policy. One section targets the communications with the public: The correspondence is expedited in the language in which it was received; the documents and forms, postings and signs, are bilingual “wherever appropriate” the same for the advertising campaigns in French. In regards to services, there is the possibility of the designation of bilingual posts, the provision of French language services must be “envisioned” by every new program, and if services are offered in French they shall be of equal quality with an active offer being used. The policy established a consultative committee for Francophone affairs, without specifying its composition or mandate. It is the division of Francophone affairs which is charged with the implementation of its mandate. There is no limiting clause nor the possibility for recourse in case of any deficiencies. It goes without saying that this management tool does not represent a right to French-language services.


Section 6 of the Languages Act reproduces paragraph 20(1) of the Canadian Charter. Paragraph 6(2) references the regulation for its implementation. The Prescribed Offices Regulation designates some offices whose functions require that services are provided in French and English.

The government adopted a Policy on French-Language Services in 1994 and has been revised in 2012. The policy reiterates that every member of the public may communicate in either French or English with every head office of a government organization. Section adds that the right extends to the office where a substantial demand exists or where the nature of the office justifies it. Section requires regular consultations with the community in order to define its needs. Section establishes that services should be practical, respond to needs, be usable, accessible, continuously maintained, and comparable in quality to those offered in English. Section establishes the means of measuring quality. Section  sets the principles of employment. Section states that it is the federal government that is responsible for the financing of French language services.

Section 2 defines the responsibilities of the Council of Ministers, the Minister, and of French language services management, of the advisory committee, of the French language services subcommittees of the sub-department review committee, of the subministers and general managers, of the minister of Justice, and of the public service commission.

In Kilrich Industries v. Halotier, the Court of Appeal ruled that the offices of the Secretariat of the Court of Justice of Whitehorse should offer their services in the two languages.

In Yukon Francophone School Board, Education Area #23 v. Yukon (Attorney General), the trial court judged that the minister of Education should communicate in French with the Francophone school board which was “public” in the sense of section 6. The decision was overturned by the Supreme Court for lack of reasonable apprehension of bias and the question was subjected once more to due process. An out of court settlement was achieved.

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