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Official Languages Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.))

Act current to 2024-05-01 and last amended on 2024-01-01. Previous Versions

PART IILegislative and Other Instruments (continued)

Marginal note:Instruments directed to the public

 All instruments directed to or intended for the notice of the public, purporting to be made or issued by or under the authority of a federal institution, shall be made or issued in both official languages.

Marginal note:Both versions simultaneous and equally authoritative

 Any journal, record, Act of Parliament, instrument, document, rule, order, regulation, treaty, convention, agreement, notice, advertisement or other matter referred to in this Part that is made, enacted, printed, published or tabled in both official languages shall be made, enacted, printed, published or tabled simultaneously in both languages, and both language versions are equally authoritative.

PART IIIAdministration of Justice

Marginal note:Official languages of federal courts

  •  (1) English and French are the official languages of the federal courts, and either of those languages may be used by any person in, or in any pleading in or process issuing from, any federal court.

  • Marginal note:Appearing in official language of choice

    (2) The choice of either official language by a person appearing before a federal court shall not be prejudicial to that person.

Marginal note:Hearing of witnesses in official language of choice

  •  (1) Every federal court has, in any proceedings before it, the duty to ensure that any person giving evidence before it may be heard in the official language of his choice, and that in being so heard the person will not be placed at a disadvantage by not being heard in the other official language.

  • Marginal note:Duty to provide simultaneous interpretation

    (2) Every federal court has, in any proceedings conducted before it, the duty to ensure that, at the request of any party to the proceedings, facilities are made available for the simultaneous interpretation of the proceedings, including the evidence given and taken, from one official language into the other.

  • Marginal note:Federal court may provide simultaneous interpretation

    (3) A federal court may, in any proceedings conducted before it, cause facilities to be made available for the simultaneous interpretation of the proceedings, including evidence given and taken, from one official language into the other where it considers the proceedings to be of general public interest or importance or where it otherwise considers it desirable to do so for members of the public in attendance at the proceedings.

Marginal note:Duty to ensure understanding without interpreter

  •  (1) Every federal court has the duty to ensure that

    • (a) if English is the language chosen by the parties for proceedings conducted before it in any particular case, every judge or other officer who hears those proceedings is able to understand English without the assistance of an interpreter;

    • (b) if French is the language chosen by the parties for proceedings conducted before it in any particular case, every judge or other officer who hears those proceedings is able to understand French without the assistance of an interpreter; and

    • (c) if both English and French are the languages chosen by the parties for proceedings conducted before it in any particular case, every judge or other officer who hears those proceedings is able to understand both languages without the assistance of an interpreter.

  • Marginal note:Adjudicative functions

    (2) For greater certainty, subsection (1) applies to a federal court only in relation to its adjudicative functions.

  • Marginal note:Appointments

    (3) The Government of Canada must, when making appointments to the federal courts, ensure that federal courts are able to meet their duty under subsection (1).

Marginal note:Equal access to justice in both official languages

 The Government of Canada must take into account the importance of equal access to justice in both official languages when appointing judges to superior courts.

Marginal note:Application for appointment

  •  (1) A person who submits an application for appointment as a judge of a superior court shall indicate their skill level in both official languages.

  • Marginal note:Evaluation

    (2) The Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs shall evaluate, in respect of every candidate who indicated that they have skills in both official languages, the candidate’s ability to speak and understand clearly both official languages.

Marginal note:Language training

 The Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs shall provide the necessary language training to the judges of the superior courts.

Marginal note:Authority to make implementing rules

  •  (1) The Governor in Council may make any rules governing the procedure in proceedings before any federal court, other than the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court or the Tax Court of Canada, including rules respecting the giving of notice, that the Governor in Council deems necessary to enable that federal court to comply with sections 15 and 16 in the exercise of any of its powers or duties.

  • Marginal note:Supreme Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Federal Court and Tax Court of Canada

    (2) Subject to the approval of the Governor in Council, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court and the Tax Court of Canada may make any rules governing the procedure in their own proceedings, including rules respecting the giving of notice, that they deem necessary to enable themselves to comply with sections 15 and 16 in the exercise of any of their powers or duties.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 17
  • 2002, c. 8, s. 156

Marginal note:Language of civil proceedings where Her Majesty is a party

 Where Her Majesty in right of Canada or a federal institution is a party to civil proceedings before a federal court,

  • (a) Her Majesty or the institution concerned shall use, in any oral or written pleadings in the proceedings, the official language chosen by the other parties unless it is established by Her Majesty or the institution that reasonable notice of the language chosen has not been given; and

  • (b) if the other parties fail to choose or agree on the official language to be used in those pleadings, Her Majesty or the institution concerned shall use such official language as is reasonable, having regard to the circumstances.

Marginal note:Bilingual forms

  •  (1) The pre-printed portion of any form that is used in proceedings before a federal court and is required to be served by any federal institution that is a party to the proceedings on any other party shall be in both official languages.

  • Marginal note:Particular details

    (2) The particular details that are added to a form referred to in subsection (1) may be set out in either official language but, where the details are set out in only one official language, it shall be clearly indicated on the form that a translation of the details into the other official language may be obtained, and, if a request for a translation is made, a translation shall be made available forthwith by the party that served the form.

Marginal note:Decisions, orders and judgments that must be made available simultaneously

  •  (1) Any final decision, order or judgment, including any reasons given therefor, issued by any federal court shall be made available simultaneously in both official languages where

    • (a) the decision, order or judgment determines a question of law of general public interest or importance; or

    • (b) the proceedings leading to its issuance were conducted in whole or in part in both official languages.

  • Marginal note:Other decisions, orders and judgments

    (2) Where

    • (a) any final decision, order or judgment issued by a federal court is not required by subsection (1) to be made available simultaneously in both official languages, or

    • (b) the decision, order or judgment is required by paragraph (1)(a) to be made available simultaneously in both official languages but the court is of the opinion that to make the decision, order or judgment, including any reasons given therefor, available simultaneously in both official languages would occasion a delay prejudicial to the public interest or resulting in injustice or hardship to any party to the proceedings leading to its issuance,

    the decision, order or judgment, including any reasons given therefor, shall be issued in the first instance in one of the official languages and thereafter, at the earliest possible time, in the other official language, each version to be effective from the time the first version is effective.

  • Marginal note:Oral rendition of decisions not affected

    (3) Nothing in subsection (1) or (2) shall be construed as prohibiting the oral rendition or delivery, in only one of the official languages, of any decision, order or judgment or any reasons given therefor.

  • Marginal note:Decisions not invalidated

    (4) No decision, order or judgment issued by a federal court is invalid by reason only that it was not made or issued in both official languages.

PART IVCommunications with and Services to the Public

Communications and Services

Marginal note:Rights relating to language of communication

 Any member of the public in Canada has the right to communicate with and to receive available services from federal institutions in accordance with this Part.

Marginal note:Where communications and services must be in both official languages

 Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that any member of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from its head or central office in either official language, and has the same duty with respect to any of its other offices or facilities

  • (a) within the National Capital Region; or

  • (b) in Canada or elsewhere, where there is significant demand for communications with and services from that office or facility in that language.

Marginal note:Travelling public

  •  (1) For greater certainty, in addition to the duty set out in section 22, every federal institution that provides services or makes them available to the travelling public has the duty to ensure that any member of the travelling public can communicate with and obtain those services in either official language from any office or facility of the institution in Canada or elsewhere where there is significant demand for those services in that language.

  • Marginal note:Services provided pursuant to a contract

    (2) Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that such services to the travelling public as may be prescribed by regulation of the Governor in Council that are provided or made available by another person or organization pursuant to a contract with the federal institution for the provision of those services at an office or facility referred to in subsection (1) are provided or made available, in both official languages, in the manner prescribed by regulation of the Governor in Council.

Marginal note:Nature of the office

  •  (1) Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that any member of the public can communicate in either official language with, and obtain available services in either official language from, any of its offices or facilities in Canada or elsewhere

    • (a) in any circumstances prescribed by regulation of the Governor in Council that relate to any of the following:

      • (i) the health, safety or security of members of the public,

      • (ii) the location of the office or facility, or

      • (iii) the national or international mandate of the office; or

    • (b) in any other circumstances prescribed by regulation of the Governor in Council where, due to the nature of the office or facility, it is reasonable that communications with and services from that office or facility be available in both official languages.

  • Marginal note:Institutions reporting directly to Parliament

    (2) Any federal institution that reports directly to Parliament on any of its activities has the duty to ensure that any member of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from all of its offices or facilities in Canada or elsewhere in either official language.

  • Marginal note:Idem

    (3) Without restricting the generality of subsection (2), the duty set out in that subsection applies in respect of

    • (a) the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages;

    • (b) the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer;

    • (b.1) the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner;

    • (c) the Office of the Auditor General;

    • (d) the Office of the Information Commissioner;

    • (e) the Office of the Privacy Commissioner; and

    • (f) the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 24
  • 2005, c. 46, s. 56.5
  • 2006, c. 9, ss. 96, 222

Services Provided on behalf of Federal Institutions

Marginal note:Where services provided on behalf of federal institutions

  •  (1) Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that, where services are provided or made available by another person or organization on its behalf, any member of the public in Canada or elsewhere can communicate with and obtain those services from that person or organization in either official language in any case where those services, if provided by the institution, would be required under this Part to be provided in either official language.

  • Marginal note:Presumption

    (2) For the purpose of subsection (1), the other person or organization is presumed to provide or make available services on behalf of the federal institution if

    • (a) the federal institution exercises sufficient control over the other person or organization; or

    • (b) the other person or organization implements a program or legislative regime for which the federal institution is responsible.

  • Marginal note:For greater certainty

    (3) For greater certainty, a mere financial contribution by the Government of Canada to another person or organization is not sufficient to trigger the application of subsection (1).

Regulatory Activities of Federal Institutions

Marginal note:Regulatory activities relating to health, safety and security of public

 Every federal institution that regulates persons or organizations with respect to any of their activities that relate to the health, safety or security of members of the public has the duty to ensure, through its regulation of those persons or organizations, wherever it is reasonable to do so in the circumstances, that members of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from those persons or organizations in relation to those activities in both official languages.

 

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