A judge suspends the mandate of Quebec’s language law to translate legal documents

A Montreal Superior Court judge temporarily suspended a government warrant for certified French translations of legal documents on August 12, 2022. The decision comes a week after corporate lawyers and representatives of Indigenous groups challenged two related sections of the new Quebec language law (Bill 96).

Lawyers representing several companies argue that certified legal translators are scarce and expensive, and that the translation mandate would disadvantage non-French speakers. The same group argued that the warrant violates sections of the Canadian Constitution Act, 1867 guaranteeing access to the court system in English and French.

Indigenous representatives in Canada, including members of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, have said they are directly affected by the law.

The decision of Justice Chantal Corriveau of the Superior Court of Quebec temporarily suspends the two articles relating to legal documents; from marriage licenses to business permits and any other documents required by the court.

In a written public statement, Justice Corriveau said that “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. 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.

The judge further acknowledged the validity of the arguments in her statement. She highlighted potential obstacles to cases that “may require prompt intervention in court to avoid irreparable harm.”

The government’s response to the interim decision came from Simon Jolin-Barrette, Minister of Justice and the French Language. He said: “The government is firmly committed to defending this fundamental right. We will not comment further at this time. »

As the October 2022 National Assembly elections in Quebec approach, political candidates of all parties are using their opposition to Bill 96 to win the votes of Anglophones and Allophones (those whose native language is not is neither English nor French). These groups would be expected to pay for legal translations if the language law remained as is.

Hearings for a final decision are expected to take place in November.

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