Courts of Justice Act
What are the Francophones’ linguistic rights in accordance with the Courts of Justice Act?
Sections 125 and 126 of the Courts of Justice Act relate to the languages of the courts of Ontario.
Official languages of the courts
125. (1) The official languages of the courts of Ontario are English and French.
Proceedings in English unless otherwise provided
(2) Except as otherwise provided with respect to the use of the French language,
(a) hearings in courts shall be conducted in the English language and evidence adduced in a language other than English shall be interpreted into the English language; and
(b) documents filed in courts shall be in the English language or shall be accompanied by a translation of the document into the English language certified by affidavit of the translator..
Note: Section 126 applies to civil and provincial offences proceedings in courts of Ontario. Subsection 126(5) also applies to criminal proceedings.
126. (1) A party to a proceeding who speaks French has the right to require that it be conducted as a bilingual proceeding.
(2) The following rules apply to a proceeding that is conducted as a bilingual proceeding:
1. The hearings that the party specifies shall be presided over by a judge or officer who speaks English and French.
2. If a hearing that the party has specified is held before a judge and jury in an area named in Schedule 1, the jury shall consist of persons who speak English and French.
3. If a hearing that the party has specified is held without a jury, or with a jury in an area named in Schedule 1, evidence given and submissions made in English or French shall be received, recorded and transcribed in the language in which they are given.
4. Any other part of the hearing may be conducted in French if, in the opinion of the presiding judge or officer, it can be so conducted.
5. Oral evidence given in English or French at an examination out of court shall be received, recorded and transcribed in the language in which it is given.
6. In an area named in Schedule 2, a party may file pleadings and other documents written in French.
7. Elsewhere in Ontario, a party may file pleadings and other documents written in French if the other parties consent.
8. The reasons for a decision may be written in English or French.
9. On the request of a party or counsel who speaks English or French but not both, the court shall provide interpretation of anything given orally in the other language at hearings referred to in paragraphs 2 and 3 and at examinations out of court, and translation of reasons for a decision written in the other language.
(2.1) When a prosecution under the Provincial Offences Act by the Crown in right of Ontario is being conducted as a bilingual proceeding, the prosecutor assigned to the case must be a person who speaks English and French.
(3) When an appeal is taken in a proceeding that is being conducted as a bilingual proceeding, a party who speaks French has the right to require that the appeal be heard by a judge or judges who speak English and French; in that case subsection (2) applies to the appeal, with necessary modifications.
(4) A document filed by a party before a hearing in a proceeding in the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice, the Ontario Court of Justice or the Small Claims Court may be written in French.
(5) A process issued in or giving rise to a criminal proceeding or a proceeding in the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice or the Ontario Court of Justice may be written in French.
(6) On a party’s request, the court shall provide translation into English or French of a document or process referred to in subsection (4) or (5) that is written in the other language.
(7) At a hearing to which paragraph 3 of subsection (2) does not apply, if a party acting in person makes submissions in French or a witness gives oral evidence in French, the court shall provide interpretation of the submissions or evidence into English.
Parties who are not natural persons
(8) A corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship may exercise the rights conferred by this section in the same way as a natural person, unless the court orders otherwise.
Ontario Regulation 53/01 on bilingual proceedings
Ontario Regulation 53/01 provides more direction regarding bilingual proceedings in Ontario courts, including the methods for requesting a bilingual proceeding and timelines for making the request. This regulation applies to civil, family, small claims, and provincial offences proceedings in Ontario courts.
How is this Regulation useful?
Ontario Regulation 53/01 applies to bilingual proceedings. This regulation provides four methods to request a bilingual proceeding:
- Filing the first document in French, if authorized to do so under section 126 of the Courts of Justice Act
- Filing a requisition form
- Making an oral statement to the court
- Filing a written statement with the court
What are the areas designated in accordance with the Courts of Justice Act?
Twenty-three areas are designated in accordance with the Courts of Justice Act. In these areas, parties can have a civil trial with a bilingual jury, and file documents in French with or without the consent of the other parties.
Additional information regarding the French language rights applicable to court proceedings can be found at: Justice in Both Languages.