Quebec’s proposed language rules draw concerns from the US

Quebec's proposed language rules draw concerns from the US

Quebec’s proposed language rules draw concerns from the US | Insurance Business Canada

Insurance News

Quebec’s proposed language rules draw concerns from the US

Concerns over the possible impact on American businesses

Insurance News

Abigail Adriatico

US president Joe Biden’s administration has expressed its concerns about the Quebec’s proposed regulation surrounding language usage in signages, according to CTV News.

The US administration brought up the concern over Bill 96 during the meeting of high-level trade officials in Toronto. A US trade representative expressed worry over the trademark provisions of the bill and the possible impact on American businesses.

“We have to understand that there is concern on the American side, and we have to address this fear,” said Michel Rochette, president of the Retail Council of Canada, Quebec.

What does Bill 96 entail?

Quebec’s Law 14 (Bill 96) was a set of reforms to provincial language laws aimed at protecting the position of the French language. A recent draft of the regulation included a proposal that French must occupy space on signages that are at least twice as large as other languages visible from the outside.

Signs that also bear a trademark or a company name will also need to include French terms in the product or service descriptions or slogans. Businesses have until June 2025 to comply.

“We’re faced with a lot of incomprehension, honestly, and surprise, in relation to criteria that to them seem ultra-demanding,” said Eliane Ellbogen, an intellectual property lawyer with Fasken.

Ellbogen said that the regulation may lead to major expenses and administrative steps for businesses that need to change their signs or trademarks.

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According to the Quebec government, most businesses in the province are already compliant with the new regulations. The government estimated that the compliance of businesses will cost between $7 million and $15 million, though some are questioning this.

“What we’re told is that it could be around $50,000 to $100,000 per sign. For a retailer with around ten branches, it could represent a cost of a million dollars,” said Ellbogen.

Rochette said that many retailers considered the deadline to be very tight.

“Two years ago, (officials) were saying they’d have three years to adapt, which isn’t quite true. The countdown has already begun, but we don’t yet know the rules of the game,” he said.

With consultations ongoing until the end of February, merchants will need to wait for the final draft before making any costly preparations.

Jean-François Roberge, the minister of the French language, said that with the language’s vulnerability in the province, the intervention through the new regulations was necessary.

He added that the Office Québécois de la Langue Française (OQLF) will be offering support to firms.

“Our government is constantly proving that in Quebec, we can defend French and offer a welcoming environment for businesses,” said Roberge.

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