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English and French are the official languages of the courts in Ontario.
You have the right to a bilingual court proceeding for all criminal and non-jury civil cases held in the Ontario Court of Justice, the Superior Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal for Ontario. The right to a bilingual proceeding extends to all other hearings associated with the proceeding, such as procedural motions, pre-trial hearings, hearings to assess costs.
During a bilingual proceeding, the judge, the Crown attorney (in criminal cases), the registrar/clerk and the court reporter/monitor are bilingual. You may address the court directly in French. Witnesses testify in the language in which they feel most comfortable and the court provides interpreters as needed.
In a criminal case, if you are entitled to a jury trial, you may ask that the trial take place before jurors who speak French. It may be necessary to change the location of the trial to an area where there are enough French-speaking people to form a jury.
You may exercise your right to a bilingual proceeding by:
In the case of a provincial offence, if an offence notice, summons, parking infraction notice or notice of impending conviction has been issued, you have the right to request a bilingual trial. The prosecutor will be bilingual if the matter is prosecuted on behalf of the Crown.
If you are served with an offence notice, parking infraction notice or notice of impending conviction, you may request a bilingual trial by checking the appropriate box on the notice of intention to appear. In the case of a summons, you may request a bilingual trial when the court date is set.
In a civil case, you can receive a bilingual jury in: the counties of Essex, Middlesex, Prescott and Russell, Renfrew, Simcoe and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry; the County of Welland as it existed on December 31, 1969; the territorial districts of Algoma, Cochrane, Kenora, Nipissing, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Timiskaming; the Municipality of Chatham Kent; the City of Hamilton; the City of Ottawa; the Regional Municipality of Peel; the City of Greater Sudbury; and the City of Toronto ( Courts of Justice Act, s. 126, Schedules 1 & 2).
All administrative tribunals reporting to the Ministry of the Attorney General will hold bilingual hearings upon request. These tribunals include the Ontario Municipal Board, the Assessment Review Board, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and the Board of Negotiation.
You may file documents in French if the proceeding is commenced in one of the areas listed in (2) above or if the parties to the proceeding consent. On request, the court will provide English or French translations of any documents filed in proceedings before the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice, the Ontario Court of Justice or the Small Claims Court. All forms commonly used in the courts are either bilingual or available in separate French and English versions.
A contract is a private agreement between parties and may be written in French if all parties to the contract agree. This includes marriage contracts, separation agreements, employment contracts and leases.
A will may be written in French. In order to confirm the appointment of an estate trustee (executor), an application must be made to the Superior Court of Justice. The original will must accompany the application. In areas where documents can be filed in French, it is not necessary to submit an English translation of the will. In all other areas of the province, an English translation must be submitted with the original French document.
The Law Society of Upper Canada operates a bilingual referral service that can provide the names of French-speaking lawyers in your area. For further information, contact:
Lawyer Referral Services
Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5H 2N6
Telephone: 1-800-268-8326 or 416-947-3330 (within the GTA)
Web site: www.lsuc.on.ca
The Ontario Bar Association offers bilingual information on locating and working with a lawyer. You can access this information by visiting their Web site at www.oba.org or by calling the association toll free at 1-800-668-8900.
Legal Aid is available to people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer. If you qualify for legal aid, you will be given a legal aid lawyer certificate. This certificate is a guarantee of payment from Legal Aid Ontario to the private lawyer of your choice, subject to the rates and limitations set out in the legal aid tariff. For further information, contact:
Legal Aid Ontario
375 University Avenue, Suite 404
Toronto ON M5G 2G1
Toll Free: 1-800-668-8258
Web site: www.legalaid.on.ca
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario adopts all public statutes in both French and English, and both versions are equally valid. Ontario's public statutes are available on-line in both English and French at www.e-laws.gov.on.ca. Copies may also be obtained through your public library or ordered from:
5 th Floor, 880 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1N8
Toll Free: 1-800-668-9938
Web site: www.gov.on.ca/MBS/english/publications/
1978: Amendments to The Judicature Act provide for bilingual civil trials and selection of bilingual jurors in certain areas of Ontario.
1979: Amendments to the Criminal Code provide for a criminal trial anywhere in Ontario before a judge, or judge and jury, who speak English or French.
1984: The Courts of Justice Act, 1984, declares English and French the official languages of the courts of Ontario. The Act makes detailed provision for use of French in court proceedings, and expands the areas in which bilingual trials are available to cover the whole province.
1986: The French Language Services Act, 1986, gives French-speaking residents of Ontario the right to communicate in French and to receive services in French from the Ministry of the Attorney General head office and regional offices in 22 designated areas. (Note: The City of London and the County of Middlesex have since been added as designated areas of the province, respectively in the French Language Services Act and Courts of Justice Act.)
1990: Amendments to the Courts of Justice Act, 1984, ensure that French-speaking litigants have the right to civil trials in French. The amendments also recognize the right to file documents in French in specific parts of Ontario.
1991: All public Acts of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario are enacted in both French and English.
2001: A new regulation under the Courts of Justice Act streamlines and simplifies administrative procedures for obtaining a court hearing in French.