Official Languages Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.))

Act current to 2016-03-28 and last amended on 2015-06-23. Previous Versions

Official Languages Act

R.S.C., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.)

An Act respecting the status and use of the official languages of Canada

[1988, c. 38, assented to 28th July, 1988]
Preamble

WHEREAS the Constitution of Canada provides that English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada;

AND WHEREAS the Constitution of Canada provides for full and equal access to Parliament, to the laws of Canada and to courts established by Parliament in both official languages;

AND WHEREAS the Constitution of Canada also provides for guarantees relating to the right of any member of the public to communicate with, and to receive available services from, any institution of the Parliament or government of Canada in either official language;

AND WHEREAS officers and employees of institutions of the Parliament or government of Canada should have equal opportunities to use the official language of their choice while working together in pursuing the goals of those institutions;

AND WHEREAS English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians should, without regard to their ethnic origin or first language learned, have equal opportunities to obtain employment in the institutions of the Parliament or government of Canada;

AND WHEREAS the Government of Canada is committed to achieving, with due regard to the principle of selection of personnel according to merit, full participation of English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians in its institutions;

AND WHEREAS the Government of Canada is committed to enhancing the vitality and supporting the development of English and French linguistic minority communities, as an integral part of the two official language communities of Canada, and to fostering full recognition and use of English and French in Canadian society;

AND WHEREAS the Government of Canada is committed to cooperating with provincial governments and their institutions to support the development of English and French linguistic minority communities, to provide services in both English and French, to respect the constitutional guarantees of minority language educational rights and to enhance opportunities for all to learn both English and French;

AND WHEREAS the Government of Canada is committed to enhancing the bilingual character of the National Capital Region and to encouraging the business community, labour organizations and voluntary organizations in Canada to foster the recognition and use of English and French;

AND WHEREAS the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of preserving and enhancing the use of languages other than English and French while strengthening the status and use of the official languages;

NOW, THEREFORE, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

Short Title

Marginal note:Short title

 This Act may be cited as the Official Languages Act.

Purpose of Act

Marginal note:Purpose

 The purpose of this Act is to

  • (a) ensure respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada and ensure equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all federal institutions, in particular with respect to their use in parliamentary proceedings, in legislative and other instruments, in the administration of justice, in communicating with or providing services to the public and in carrying out the work of federal institutions;

  • (b) support the development of English and French linguistic minority communities and generally advance the equality of status and use of the English and French languages within Canadian society; and

  • (c) set out the powers, duties and functions of federal institutions with respect to the official languages of Canada.

Interpretation

Marginal note:Definitions
  •  (1) In this Act,

    Commissioner

    commissaire

    Commissioner means the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada appointed under section 49; (commissaire)

    Crown corporation

    sociétés d’État

    Crown corporation means

    • (a) a corporation that is ultimately accountable, through a Minister, to Parliament for the conduct of its affairs, and

    • (b) a parent Crown corporation or a wholly-owned subsidiary, within the meaning of section 83 of the Financial Administration Act; (sociétés d’État)

    department

    ministère

    department means a department as defined in section 2 of the Financial Administration Act; (ministère)

    federal institution

    institutions fédérales

    federal institution includes any of the following institutions of the Parliament or government of Canada:

    • (a) the Senate,

    • (b) the House of Commons,

    • (c) the Library of Parliament,

    • (c.1) the office of the Senate Ethics Officer and the office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner,

    • (c.2) the Parliamentary Protective Service,

    • (d) any federal court,

    • (e) any board, commission or council, or other body or office, established to perform a governmental function by or pursuant to an Act of Parliament or by or under the authority of the Governor in Council,

    • (f) a department of the Government of Canada,

    • (g) a Crown corporation established by or pursuant to an Act of Parliament, and

    • (h) any other body that is specified by an Act of Parliament to be an agent of Her Majesty in right of Canada or to be subject to the direction of the Governor in Council or a minister of the Crown,

    but does not include

    • (i) any institution of the Legislative Assembly or government of Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut, or

    • (j) any Indian band, band council or other body established to perform a governmental function in relation to an Indian band or other group of aboriginal people; (institutions fédérales)

    National Capital Region

    région de la capitale nationale

    National Capital Region means the National Capital Region described in the schedule to the National Capital Act. (région de la capitale nationale)

  • Definition of federal court

    (2) In this section and in Parts II and III, federal court means any court, tribunal or other body that carries out adjudicative functions and is established by or pursuant to an Act of Parliament.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 3;
  • 1993, c. 28, s. 78;
  • 2002, c. 7, s. 224;
  • 2004, c. 7, s. 26;
  • 2006, c. 9, s. 20;
  • 2014, c. 2, s. 39;
  • 2015, c. 36, s. 144.

PART IProceedings of Parliament

Marginal note:Official languages of Parliament
  •  (1) English and French are the official languages of Parliament, and everyone has the right to use either of those languages in any debates and other proceedings of Parliament.

  • Marginal note:Simultaneous interpretation

    (2) Facilities shall be made available for the simultaneous interpretation of the debates and other proceedings of Parliament from one official language into the other.

  • Marginal note:Official reports

    (3) Everything reported in official reports of debates or other proceedings of Parliament shall be reported in the official language in which it was said and a translation thereof into the other official language shall be included therewith.

PART IILegislative and Other Instruments

Marginal note:Journals and other records

 The journals and other records of Parliament shall be made and kept, and shall be printed and published, in both official languages.

Marginal note:Acts of Parliament

 All Acts of Parliament shall be enacted, printed and published in both official languages.

Marginal note:Legislative instruments
  •  (1) Any instrument made in the execution of a legislative power conferred by or under an Act of Parliament that

    • (a) is made by, or with the approval of, the Governor in Council or one or more ministers of the Crown,

    • (b) is required by or pursuant to an Act of Parliament to be published in the Canada Gazette, or

    • (c) is of a public and general nature

    shall be made in both official languages and, if printed and published, shall be printed and published in both official languages.

  • Marginal note:Instruments under prerogative or other executive power

    (2) All instruments made in the exercise of a prerogative or other executive power that are of a public and general nature shall be made in both official languages and, if printed and published, shall be printed and published in both official languages.

  • Marginal note:Exceptions

    (3) Subsection (1) does not apply to

    • (a) a law made by the Legislature of Yukon, of the Northwest Territories or for Nunavut, or any instrument made under any such law, or

    • (b) a by-law, law or other instrument of an Indian band, band council or other body established to perform a governmental function in relation to an Indian band or other group of aboriginal people,

    by reason only that the ordinance, by-law, law or other instrument is of a public and general nature.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 7;
  • 1993, c. 28, s. 78;
  • 2002, c. 7, s. 225;
  • 2014, c. 2, s. 40.
Marginal note:Documents in Parliament

 Any document made by or under the authority of a federal institution that is tabled in the Senate or the House of Commons by the Government of Canada shall be tabled in both official languages.

Marginal note:Rules, etc., governing practice and procedure

 All rules, orders and regulations governing the practice or procedure in any proceedings before a federal court shall be made, printed and published in both official languages.

Marginal note:International treaties
  •  (1) The Government of Canada shall take all possible measures to ensure that any treaty or convention between Canada and one or more other states is authenticated in both official languages.

  • Marginal note:Federal-provincial agreements

    (2) The Government of Canada has the duty to ensure that the following classes of agreements between Canada and one or more provinces are made in both official languages and that both versions are equally authoritative:

    • (a) agreements that require the authorization of Parliament or the Governor in Council to be effective;

    • (b) agreements entered into with one or more provinces where English and French are declared to be the official languages of any of those provinces or where any of those provinces requests that the agreement be made in English and French; and

    • (c) agreements entered into with two or more provinces where the governments of those provinces do not use the same official language.

  • Marginal note:Regulations

    (3) The Governor in Council may make regulations prescribing the circumstances in which any class, specified in the regulations, of agreements that are made between Canada and one or more other states or between Canada and one or more provinces

    • (a) must be made in both official languages;

    • (b) must be made available in both official languages at the time of signing or publication; or

    • (c) must, on request, be translated.

 
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