In another step towards implementing French language signage rules, the Government of Québec has announced that modifications to the Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business of the Charter of the French Language (the Regulation) which have been in effect since November 24, 2016.1

The Regulations (as previously reported) govern the use of the French language on signage in Québec, and require that all public displays featuring a non-French trademark must include a "sufficient presence of French" by adding a generic French term, slogan or description of the products or services of the business, in a legible manner. 

The Government of Québec also announced modifications to the Regulation defining the scope of the expression "markedly predominant" for the purposes of the Charter of the French language.2 The requirement that French be "markedly predominant" on all bilingual signage will not apply to situations where the non-French language displayed is explicitly permitted. For example, under the Regulations, French will not be required to be "markedly predominant" if the bilingual signage satisfies the requirements of a "sufficient presence of French."  

What You Need To Know

  • As of November 24, 2016, any new or replacement signage featuring a non-French trademark must include a "sufficient presence of French." For example, a retail clothing store which has previously used signage containing only its trademark COOLKIDS, could comply with the new Regulations by using signage with the following language: "Vêtements COOLKIDS," "COOLKIDS – Pour Habiller Votre Enfant Avec Style," or "COOLKIDS – Vêtements pour enfants 0 à 12 ans."3
  • Businesses have three years (until November 24, 2019) to ensure existing signage is in compliance with the Regulations.
  • The French elements of the sign must have similar permanent visibility and legibility in the same visual field as compared to the non-French trademark displayed.
  • The legibility of French is evaluated based  on the type of sign and the distance from which it is viewed. For example, in the case of a sign that is visible from a highway, the legibility of the French elements of the sign must be evaluated from the highway.
  • Non-French family names, given names and place names, for example "Tim Hortons" and "McDonald’s," are exempt from the new requirements.
  • Fines for failure to comply with the Regulations, and for other offences under the Charter of the French Language and its regulations remain up to $6,000 for individuals and up to $20,000 for businesses for initial offences, with fines doubling for subsequent offences.
  • The Office québécois de la langue française has published a guide to assist with compliance (see "Affichage des marques de commerce").

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1 OC 887-2016.

2 OC 886-2016.

3 These examples are from a guide published by the Office québécois de la langue française to assist with compliance with the Regulations (see "Affichage des marques de commerce".

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This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, we would be pleased to discuss the issues in this publication with you, in the context of your particular circumstances.

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