April 22, 2024

Under the Courts of Justice Act, the official languages of the courts of Ontario are English and French.[1]

A party to a proceeding who speaks French has the right to require that it be conducted as a bilingual proceeding, meaning:

– The hearings that the party specifies shall be presided over by a judge or officer who speaks English and French;

– Any other part of the hearing may be conducted in French if, in the opinion of the presiding judge or officer, it can be so conducted;

– Oral evidence given in English or French at an examination out of court shall be received, recorded and transcribed in the language in which it is given;

– On the request of a party, if the party or their counsel speaks English or French but not both, interpretation shall be provided of anything given orally in the other language at hearings and at examinations out of court;

– The reasons for a decision may be written in English or French, but the court shall provide a translation into the other language on the request of a party; and

– If a proceeding is held before a jury in specific geographic areas listed in the Courts of Justice Act, the jury shall consist of persons who speak English and French.

In addition, when it comes to providing evidence via oral examinations or at trial where an interpreter from English to French or French to English is required, the party does not need to provide their own interpreter, but will be provided one by the Ministry of the Attorney General.[2]

An interesting feature of French language proceedings in Ontario (or any jurisdiction in Canada other than Quebec, really) is that it is among the few jurisdictions worldwide that operate under the common law system. Most French language jurisdictions operate under the civil law system. By extension, the French terminology used in the Ontario court system is rather unique, as common law concepts and legal terms are translated into French.

For any party curious about undertaking a bilingual proceeding, there are a number of resources online:


[1] Courts of Justice Act, section 126.

[2] Rules of Civil Procedure, sections 34.09 and 53.01.