Interpretation Services & French Language Rights

Interpretation Services in the Court

In accordance with section 14 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a party or witness who does not understand or speak the language in which Court proceedings are conducted, or who is deaf, has the right to the assistance of an interpreter.

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that an important principle underlying this right to interpreter assistance is linguistic understanding. While the interpretation provided need not be perfect, it must be continuous, precise, impartial, competent and contemporaneous:  R v Tran, [1994] 2 SCR 951, 1994 CanLII 56.

Additional information:

Use of French in The Court

Interpretation of Language Rights

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that language rights must in all cases be interpreted purposively, in a manner consistent with the preservation and development of official language communities in Canada:  R v Beaulac, [1999] 1 SCR 768, 1999 CanLII 684 at para 25. 

Further, language rights are not negative rights, or passive rights; they can only be enjoyed if the means are provided. This is consistent with the notion favoured in the area of international law that the freedom to choose is meaningless in the absence of a duty of the State to take positive steps to implement language guarantees:  Beaulac at para 20.

Your Language Rights in Criminal Proceedings

An individual accused of having committed a criminal offence may request a trial in French or a bilingual trial. Depending on the circumstances, such a request may be made before committal for trial, before choosing the mode of trial, before the trial date is set or during a pre-trial conference in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Additional information:

Proceedings Relating to a Provincial Offence

An individual accused of a provincial offence may use French in oral communications in the proceeding, and may request that the trial be conducted in French or in both French and English.

These are offences under an enactment as defined in s. 1(e) of the Provincial Offences Procedure Act, RSA 2000, c P-34.

Additional information:

Your Language Rights in a Civil Action

Any person may use French in oral communication in proceedings before the Court of Queen’s Bench. If a person intends to use French during a hearing, the clerk’s office should be advised. If a person intends to use French during a trial, this should be indicated in Form 37.

Additional information:

Information in French on The Canadian and Alberta Justice Systems

(The Court is not responsible for the accuracy, currency or reliability of this content)