Standing Committee on Official Languages Amends Federal Bill C-13 regarding the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act
Date: June 6, 2023
The federal government’s Standing Committee on Official Languages (the Committee) has amended Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act, to enact the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act and to make related amendments to other Acts (Act).
The new Act sets out new rights for employees which will apply to federally regulated workplaces in Québec and other regions in Canada with a strong francophone presence, including:
- the right to work and be supervised in French
- the right to receive communications and documentation from their employer in French (while not precluding communications in both languages, provided French is at least equivalent to English)
- the right to use regularly and widely used work instruments and computer systems in French
- the right to file complaints regarding the language of work
Employers will also be required to inform employees of their language rights and remedies, and to establish a committee to support the business in using and fostering French. The Act also prohibits employers from treating employees adversely due to insufficient knowledge of French or a language other than French (subject to exceptions where the business is able to demonstrate that a knowledge of that language is objectively required by the nature of the work).
The Committee’s amendments to Bill C-13 include new requirements regarding advertisements, arbitration awards and unions. The amendments also expanded existing requirements regarding employee communications, former employees and complaints.
The amendments were accepted and passed by the House of Commons. Bill C-13 has now passed Second Reading in the Senate and has been referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages. We will continue to monitor the progress of Bill C-13 and report on any developments.
Bill C-13 is to be proclaimed into force in stages. The new Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act will come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council and will initially apply only to federally regulated businesses in Québec. The provisions allowing for the expansion of the Act to other regions in Canada with a strong francophone presence will come into force on the second anniversary after the Act takes effect in Québec.
The new Act does not define what constitutes a “region with a strong francophone presence,” but contemplates that there will be regulations to identify such regions, which will take into account a range of factors such as the number of francophones in a region, the number of francophones in a region as a proportion of the region’s total population and the vitality and specificity of French linguistic minority communities.
Employers with operations in Québec or in regions in Canada with significant francophone communities should plan to review their current policies and processes in order to ensure compliance when the Act comes into force.
Should you have any questions about the Act, please contact your regular Hicks Morley Lawyer.
The article in this client update provides general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This publication is copyrighted by Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP and may not be photocopied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. ©