Bilingualism Law's Translation Impact

Understanding Canada’s new Official Languages Act

8 minutes

Prominent among approved regulations affecting the business panorama in Canada is the recent overhaul of the Official Languages Act (OLA), highlighting its significant impact on translation. This legislation, the purpose of which is to ensure respect of both English and French as the country’s official languages, underwent significant changes in 2023.

As an active member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a company dedicated to the provision of professional translation, localization and interpreting services, SeproTec Multilingual Solutions has reviewed the main changes in the OLA and summarized their effects on the various businesses and entities operating in the Canadian market and the ways in which they can benefit from being bilingual to establish a competitive advantage.

The development of the OLA and its intended purpose

Between its enactment in 1969 and most recent amendment in 2023, the OLA has been substantially overhauled to adjust it to changes in the legal, technological and socio-demographic reality; in other words it has been revised and reformed over time to adapt to the changing needs of Canadian society.

The latest reform seeks to ensure not just equal status between English and French throughout Canada but also to promote their use and preservation in all aspects of society. It is hoped that this legislative readjustment will further reinforce the protection and promotion of the official languages, evincing a continuous commitment to the country’s linguistic and cultural diversity.

Which institutions and businesses does it affect?

As well as for all federal institutions, this update has implications for privatized and private corporations offering services on behalf of federal institutions. The linguistic obligations of privatized corporations are stipulated in specific enabling legislation and those of third parties derive directly from Part IV of the Act (Communications with and Services to the Public).

When and how it will be applied

The updated legal framework is designed to offer Canadians a wider range of bilingual services and is expected to be fully implemented in 2024. It is crucial for foreign businesses to prepare to comply with these provisions and ensure that they communicate effectively in both languages regarding not only their interactions with public institutions, but also the information they prepare for the public in general when acting on behalf of public bodies. The OLA provides that certain services and written communications must be available to the public in both English and French.

New business principles and challenges

These changes to the OLA have established new principles for the interpretation of language rights by introducing the application of the “substantive equality” rule. In this regard, the intention is partly corrective and partly to ensure that the measures adopted promote genuine and significant equality by recognizing the special characteristics and specific needs of minority groups. These changes thus seek to strengthen the protection of language rights by promoting an inclusive and equitable approach in Canada’s legal framework.

Corporate Social Responsibility

In short, Canada’s new Official Languages Act reflects the county’s commitment to language diversity and presents opportunities for foreign companies looking to succeed in the vibrant Canadian market. Complying with the OLA is not just a legal obligation, but also a strategic opportunity to shine in the Canadian market. Foreign companies that demonstrate their commitment to diversity by being bilingual in all their communications, both written and oral, will establish a competitive advantage on which to build solid and lasting relationships. It is for good reason market studies show that 76% of users prefer to buy products and services offering information in their native language.

SeproTec as your strategic partner

SeproTec Multilingual Solutions, an active member of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Canada, is a professional translation and interpreting services company with considerable experience in internationalization processes.

With this in mind, by offering a comprehensive range of professional language services, SeproTec Multilingual Solutions makes it easier for companies to adapt to the new requirements of the OLA, thus ensuring the continuity of their operations in an increasingly regulated environment.

For more information on our language services, please contact Ariadna Reques:

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