Bill C-13: New Language Laws for Federally Regulated Businesses

Earlier this month, the federal government introduced Bill C-13, which proposes significant changes to language laws governing federally-regulated employers (e.g., banks, airlines, shipping). Bill C-13 includes: amendments to the Official Languages Act, and a new Act – the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act – that establishes French language rights for employees at certain federally-regulated businesses.

Bill C-13

Official Languages Act

The Official Languages Act (OLA) focuses on the obligations of the Government of Canada and other federal institutions. Bill C-13 proposes amendments to the OLA to reinforce the federal government’s commitment to protect and promote the French language. This includes stating that official language rights apply in emergencies, and federal courts must provide final decisions in both English and French.

Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act

Initially, this new Act applies to federally regulated (private sector) workplaces in Quebec. In the future, it will be amended to apply to federal organizations in Canadian regions “with a strong francophone presence”.

Note: If a business chooses to be subject to Quebec’s Charter of the French language instead of the new Act, the Quebec Charter will apply to such business.

The new Act creates new rights for French-speaking employees in these workplaces, including rights to:

  • work and be supervised in French;
  • receive communications and documentation from their employer in French, including offers of employment or promotion, notices of dismissal, collective agreements and grievances;
  • use regularly and widely used work instruments and computer systems in French;French language
  • file complaints regarding the language of work.

 

Employers must foster the use of French in their workplaces, including:

  • informing employees of their language rights and remedies;
  • establishing a committee to support the business in using and fostering French.

 

Employers cannot treat employees adversely due to insufficient knowledge of French or a language other than French. This is subject to exceptions where the business is able to demonstrate that a knowledge of another language is objectively required by the nature of the work.


Also see: What Does Québec’s French Language Bill Mean for Employers?