Ottawa will propose a copy of Bill 96 for federal companies in Quebec

The Trudeau government’s bill should be tabled this week by the Minister responsible for official languages, Mélanie Joly, after many months of waiting on the part of the linguistic communities.

This is the most recent attempt by the Trudeau government to align with Quebec on language and identity issues. With this overhaul of the Official Languages ​​Act, the federal government wants to ensure that most employees of companies under federal jurisdiction can work, be supervised and receive communications in French in Quebec.

We are talking here about banks, international and interprovincial transport companies, and telecommunications firms, among others.

However, the federal proposal does not exactly respond to the request of the minister responsible for the language file in Quebec, Simon Jolin-Barrette, who instead requires that businesses under federal jurisdiction be subject to provincial law.

101. It is a measure that has won consensus in Quebec “,” text “:” We have always been very clear about our intention to subject federally chartered companies to the Act101. It is a measure that has won consensus in Quebec “}}”>We have always been very clear about our intention to subject federally chartered companies to Bill 101. It is a measure that has won consensus in Quebec., says Élisabeth Gosselin, press secretary for Mr. Jolin-Barrette. Now, since no concrete action has yet been taken by the federal government, we will not comment further at this time.

Busy day in the Commons

The federal bill should be tabled the same day the Bloc Québécois proposes a motion in the House of Commons in response to the changes to the Canadian Constitution proposed by Quebec.

The motion seeks to recognize that Quebeckers form a nation and that French is the only official language of Quebec.

Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet has confirmed that he intends to devote to Bill 96 the only day of opposition he has left before the summer break in the Commons, which is due to begin on June 23.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick

According to information obtained by Radio-Canada, the overhaul of language laws in Ottawa will reflect the main lines of Bill 96 with regard to businesses under federal jurisdiction in Quebec.

Thus, language rights obligations will apply to businesses with more than 25 employees, the same threshold as that which will be put in place by Quebec. Right now, businesses with more than 50 employees face additional language of work obligations in the province.

The federal government is thus seeking to protect the use of French as a language of work and service in Quebec. Companies would have three years to adapt to these new language requirements.

Similar measures would also apply to businesses with more than 50 employees in certain high-density francophone regions located outside Quebec. These companies would have five years to implement the new language of work practices.

The bill will be tabled a few days before the summer recess in the House of Commons. It therefore has no chance of being adopted quickly, but could become an issue if there is an early election this fall.

Daniel Leblanc

Certificate of francization

Under this bill, businesses under federal jurisdiction that agree to voluntarily comply with provincial language of work standards will be able to continue to do so. It should be noted that approximately 40% of companies under federal jurisdiction in Quebec already comply with the requirements of the Charter of the French language (Bill 101).

The new federal rules would thus apply to businesses that have not obtained a provincial francization certificate.

If employees in these companies feel that their rights are not being respected, they can file a complaint with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, whose powers will be strengthened by the bill. It would then be up to this federal entity to ensure respect for language rights within companies under federal jurisdiction.

Ottawa also plans to ask companies to form committees to promote the French language in order to to harmonize their measures to protect the language of work with those contained in Law 96.

Political or legal battle in sight

According to the law professor at the University of Ottawa, Pierre Thibault, the question of language in the workplace is for the moment a political issue, but it could quickly become the subject of a legal dispute, if Quebec is not satisfied with the federal proposal.

Thibault says Ottawa risks winning its case in court if federal and provincial laws come into conflict.

In the interpretation of federalism, in the event of a conflict between two laws, it is the preponderance of federal laws that apply.

A quote from:Pierre Thibault, professor of law at the University of Ottawa

However, he believes it would be less complicated for businesses if the same regime applied across the province.

96 “,” text “:” It would be much simpler and easier for the federal government to accept that federal companies in Quebec be subject to the law96 “}}”>It would be much simpler and easier for the federal government to accept that federal companies in Quebec be subject to Bill 96., says Thibault.

According to several federal sources, however, the Trudeau government wants to occupy his areas of jurisdiction and does not intend to allow businesses under federal jurisdiction to be governed by a provincial law on language of work.

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