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Under Bill 96, Quebec will issue all birth and death certificates only in French


With the passage of language law Bill 96, the Quebec government plans to issue not only all marriage certificates only in French, but all birth and death certificates, too.

Bill 96 came into force on June 1, and CTV reported last week that wedding officiants were asked to warn marrying couples that as of that day, they could no longer get English marriage certificates.

It wasn't clear, however, whether two bigger groups of documents -- birth and death certificates -- were also included in the changes.

On Tuesday, Quebec's justice department confirmed that change.

Bill 96 "amends the article of the Civil Code of Québec...relating to the language in which birth, marriage, civil union and death certificates are drawn up," wrote Isabelle Boily, a spokesperson for the Quebec Justice Department, in a statement to CTV News.

"Therefore, it is expected that birth, marriage, civil union or death certificates be drawn up in French."

However, citizens will still be able to write their declaration of whichever event has occurred in English to the civil registrar, she added. The change is that when they receive the certificate back, it'll be in French.

This shouldn't pose extra logistical problems in Canada, Boily wrote.

"Note that an act drawn up in French can be used in another federated state of Canada since French is one of the two official languages of the federation," she said.


However, outside of Canada, the French-only documentation promises to create plenty of headaches for people hoping to use them in a wide variety of countries.

In the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, anyone applying for a visa must get a certified translation of documentation in any language other than English (or English and Welsh, in the case of the U.K.). That includes French.

The same appears to be true in some countries where English isn't the native language. In Germany, for example, some visas require documents to be translated if they are not in either German or English. For Canadian residents who are not citizens, this requirement is particularly likely to come up.

In the United Arab Emirates, another common destination for Canadians looking to work or study, visa documents may be submitted in either Arabic or English, but translated if in any other language.


For these kinds of official purposes, a do-it-yourself translation is generally not acceptable, even for the simplest documents. Instead, most countries require a certified translation by a translator registered with their local professional association.

The translator not only translates the document, but signs and seals it with an official note saying they certify it as true.

The cost of that is not cheap, especially if a whole Quebec family is looking to immigrate or relocate to another country for a job or study term, with each member needing his or her birth certificates translated.

One Montreal translation company that specializes in official documents of this kind told CTV News that the average price is about $70 per document.

It depends on the length and simplicity of the document, however, said Translation Montreal. At the low end of the scale, a very simple document would be $45. At the high end, something like a long-form birth certificate would be $120.

The company says its rates are "among the most competitive on the market."


It's not completely clear whether this change has already begun, with the Justice Department saying Wednesday that it's "expected." The department hasn't yet responded to a request to clarify the timeline.

The leader of Quebec's main advocacy group for English speakers slammed the move, saying the costs will add up for Quebecers looking to move or do business abroad.

"It's just another example of what we would consider pettiness in dealing with English speakers," said Eva Ludvig, the interim director of the Quebec Community Groups Network.

Perhaps more importantly, she can't see a good reason for it, she said.

"I really don't think that this will help in any way to promote and protect the French language," she said.

"You're dealing with individual persons who will no longer be able to have... the kind of documentation they're used to having. It does not mean that the person will suddenly become a French speaker just because he or she receives his documentation in French."

She said there are also private transactions, perhaps in education and real estate, for example, that could end up creating the same need for translation.

The new costs associated with Bill 96 are piling up, some much heavier than a birth certificate translation, Ludvig added.

"It's the same thing with access to justice," she said. "If you have to go, even, to the rental board or small claims court, all your documentation will have to be translated into French to be official, and it's at your own cost."

Montreal lawyer Julius Grey has said that particular provision of Bill 96 is, to him, clearly unconstitutional since the right of access to the justice system, and specifically access in both languages in Quebec, has been well defined in Canadian law.

He and other lawyers are planning a legal challenge to the bill, he said last month when it passed.

--With files from CTV's Bogdan Lytvynenko Top Stories

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