Language Laws

We encourage all our members and Québec citizens to read and understand the Language Laws of the province. In order to simplify your endeavours, we have compiled a brief introduction to the Charter of the French Language, the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have also highlighted certain provisions that exhibit relevance to the Mission of the OQLA. We encourage you to share the information on this page with your fellow Quebécers. Please contact us for additional information.

Quebec Charter of the French Language

The Charter of the French Language (French: La charte de la langue française), also known as Bill 101 (Law 101 or French: Loi 101), is a law in the province of Quebec in Canada defining French, the language of the majority of the population, as the official language of Quebec and framing fundamental language rights. It is the central legislative piece in Quebec’s language policy.

Proposed by Camille Laurin, the Minister of Cultural Development under the first Parti Québécois government of Premier René Lévesque, it was passed by the National Assembly, and granted Royal Assent by Lieutenant Governor Hugues Lapointe on August 26, 1977. The Charter’s provisions expanded upon the 1974 Official Language Act (Bill 22), which was enacted by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Parliament during the tenure of Premier Robert Bourassa’s Liberal government to make French the official language of Quebec. Prior to 1974, Quebec had no official language and was subject only to the requirements on the use of English and French contained in Article 133 of the British North America Act, 1867.

Bill 101 has been amended more than six times since 1977. Each amendment has aroused controversy over such provisions as the use of French on commercial signs or restrictions on enrollment into Anglophone schools. (Source)

Notable provisions:

Labels, directions, warranties, menus

51. Every inscription on a product, on its container or on its wrapping, or on a document or object supplied with it, including the directions for use and the warranty certificates, must be drafted in French. This rule applies also to menus and wine lists.

The French inscription may be accompanied by a translation or translations, but no inscription in another language may be given greater prominence than that in French.

Catalogues, brochures

52. Catalogues, brochures, folders commercial directories and any other publications must be drawn up in French

Exception to S.52:

10. Catalogues brochures, folders, commercial directories and any similar publications may be in two separate versions, one exclusively in French, the other exclusively in another language, provided that the material presentation of the French version is available under no less favorable conditions of accessibility and quality than the version in the other language.

Sign and posters

58. Public signs and posters and commercial advertising must be in French.

They may also be both in French and in another language provided that French is markedly predominant.

Exception to S.58:

18. Public signs and posters concerning health or public safety may be both in French and in another language provided that French appears at least as prominently.

Source: Quebec Charter of the French Language | Regulations

Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (French: La Charte canadienne des droits et libertés), in Canada often simply the Charter, is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. It forms the first part of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Charter guarantees certain political rights to Canadian citizens and civil rights of everyone in Canada from the policies and actions of all areas and levels of government. It is designed to unify Canadians around a set of principles that embody those rights. The Charter was signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II of Canada on April 17, 1982 along with the rest of the Act. (Source)

Notable provisions:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication

16. (1) English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada.

17. (1) Everyone has the right to use English or French in any debates and other proceedings of Parliament

18. (1) The statutes, records and journals of Parliament shall be printed and published in English and French and both versions are equally authoritative

19. (1) Either English or French may be used by any person in, or any pleading in process issuing from any court established by Parliament

20. (1) Any member of the public in Canada has the right to communicate with, and to receive available services from, any head or central office of an institution of the Parliament or government of Canada in English or French, and has the same right with respect to any other office of any such institution where

(a) there is a significant demand for communications with and services from that office in such language; or

(b) due to the nature of the office, it is reasonable that communications with and services from that office be available in both English and French.

Source: Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot, Paris. The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. The full text is published by the United Nations on its website. (Source)

Link: UN Declaration