The Interpretation of a Language

The Charter of the French Language (“French Charter“) has been making headlines these past few weeks, with proposals to extend it to Quebec’s daycare services and recently made campaign promises. This, however, will not be the last we hear of it.

Indeed, six large retailers (Best Buy Canada, Gap Canada, Costco Wholesale Canada, Old Navy, Guess Canada and Wal-mart Canada), the majority of which are represented by the Quebec division of the Retail Council of Canada, will be asking the Superior Court of Quebec to declare whether or not the Office de la langue française (“Office”) has the right to require them to change their signs to reflect the French language (see here for an article). According to the French Charter, the name of an enterprise must be in French; however, there is an exception for trademarks. The position of the Retail Council of Canada is that the Office has, for decades, allowed this latter exception to apply to enterprises that use their trademarked names on their signs. The argument is that Office cannot now change its interpretation of the application of the French Charter.

As it stands, stores who refuse to comply may face fines or the confiscation of their francization certificate that recognizes they are meeting their language obligations under the law. Let’s see what the Superior Court has to say.

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