Criminal Code of Canada

Text size: larger | smaller

Please note: the page will print without the top and left navigation bars and in black and white only.

Back to Main French Language Services page
Back to Main Category page

What linguistic rights are guaranteed by the Criminal Code?

Two sections of the Criminal Code guarantee the right to a proceeding in French and in English everywhere in Canada. They are the sections 530 and 530.1.

Section 530

Language of accused

530. (1) On application by an accused whose language is one of the official languages of Canada, made not later than

(a) the time of the appearance of the accused at which his trial date is set, if

(i) he is accused of an offence mentioned in section 553 or punishable on summary conviction, or

(ii) the accused is to be tried on an indictment preferred under section 577,

(b) the time of the accused’s election, if the accused elects under section 536 to be tried by a provincial court judge or under section 536.1 to be tried by a judge without a jury and without having a preliminary inquiry, or

(c) the time when the accused is ordered to stand trial, if the accused

(i) is charged with an offence listed in section 469,

(ii) has elected to be tried by a court composed of a judge or a judge and jury, or

(iii) is deemed to have elected to be tried by a court composed of a judge and jury,

a justice of the peace, provincial court judge or judge of the Nunavut Court of Justice shall grant an order directing that the accused be tried before a justice of the peace, provincial court judge, judge or judge and jury, as the case may be, who speak the official language of Canada that is the language of the accused or, if the circumstances warrant, who speak both official languages of Canada.

Idem

(2) On application by an accused whose language is not one of the official languages of Canada, made not later than whichever of the times referred to in paragraphs (1)(a) to (c) is applicable, a justice of the peace or provincial court judge may grant an order directing that the accused be tried before a justice of the peace, provincial court judge, judge or judge and jury, as the case may be, who speak the official language of Canada in which the accused, in the opinion of the justice or provincial court judge, can best give testimony or, if the circumstances warrant, who speak both official languages of Canada.

Accused to be advised of right

(3) The justice of the peace or provincial court judge before whom an accused first appears shall ensure that they are advised of their right to apply for an order under subsection (1) or (2) and of the time before which such an application must be made.

Remand

(4) Where an accused fails to apply for an order under subsection (1) or (2) and the justice of the peace, provincial court judge or judge before whom the accused is to be tried, in this Part referred to as “the court”, is satisfied that it is in the best interests of justice that the accused be tried before a justice of the peace, provincial court judge, judge or judge and jury who speak the official language of Canada that is the language of the accused or, if the language of the accused is not one of the official languages of Canada, the official language of Canada in which the accused, in the opinion of the court, can best give testimony, the court may, if it does not speak that language, by order remand the accused to be tried by a justice of the peace, provincial court judge, judge or judge and jury, as the case may be, who speak that language or, if the circumstances warrant, who speak both official languages of Canada.

Variation of order

(5) An order under this section that a trial be held in one of the official languages of Canada may, if the circumstances warrant, be varied by the court to require that it be held in both official languages of Canada, and vice versa.

Circumstances warranting order directing trial in both official languages

(6) The facts that two or more accused who are to be tried together are each entitled to be tried before a justice of the peace, provincial court judge, judge or judge and jury who speak one of the official languages of Canada and that those official languages are different may constitute circumstances that warrant that an order be granted directing that they be tried before a justice of the peace, provincial court judge, judge or judge and jury who speak both official languages of Canada.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 530; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), ss. 94, 203; 1999, c. 3, s. 34; 2008, c. 18, s. 18.

Translation of documents

530.01 (1) If an order is granted under section 530, a prosecutor — other than a private prosecutor — shall, on application by the accused,

(a) cause the portions of an information or indictment against the accused that are in an official language that is not that of the accused or that in which the accused can best give testimony to be translated into the other official language; and

(b) provide the accused with a written copy of the translated text at the earliest possible time.

Original version prevails

(2) In the case of a discrepancy between the original version of a document and the translated text, the original version shall prevail.

2008, c. 18, s. 19.

If order granted

530.1 If an order is granted under section 530,

(a) the accused and his counsel have the right to use either official language for all purposes during the preliminary inquiry and trial of the accused;

(b) the accused and his counsel may use either official language in written pleadings or other documents used in any proceedings relating to the preliminary inquiry or trial of the accused;

(c) any witness may give evidence in either official language during the preliminary inquiry or trial;

(c.1) the presiding justice or judge may, if the circumstances warrant, authorize the prosecutor to examine or cross-examine a witness in the official language of the witness even though it is not that of the accused or that in which the accused can best give testimony;

(d) the accused has a right to have a justice presiding over the preliminary inquiry who speaks the official language of the accused or both official languages, as the case may be;

(e) the accused has a right to have a prosecutor — other than a private prosecutor — who speaks the official language of the accused or both official languages, as the case may be;

(f) the court shall make interpreters available to assist the accused, his counsel or any witness during the preliminary inquiry or trial;

(g) the record of proceedings during the preliminary inquiry or trial shall include

(i) a transcript of everything that was said during those proceedings in the official language in which it was said,

(ii) a transcript of any interpretation into the other official language of what was said, and

(iii) any documentary evidence that was tendered during those proceedings in the official language in which it was tendered; and

(h) any trial judgment, including any reasons given therefor, issued in writing in either official language, shall be made available by the court in the official language that is the language of the accused.

R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 94; 2008, c. 18, s. 20.

Language used in proceeding

530.2 (1) If an order is granted directing that an accused be tried before a justice of the peace, provincial court judge, judge or judge and jury who speak both official languages, the justice or judge presiding over a preliminary inquiry or trial may, at the start of the proceeding, make an order setting out the circumstances in which, and the extent to which, the prosecutor and the justice or judge may use each official language.

Right of the accused

(2) Any order granted under this section shall, to the extent possible, respect the right of the accused to be tried in his or her official language.

2008, c. 18, s. 21.

For the complete text of the Criminal Code, click here.