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Can I have my criminal law trial in French?

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Can I have my criminal law trial in French?
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Ministry of the Attorney General
Ministry of the Attorney General
Association of French Speaking Jurists of Ontario (AJEFO)

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Can I have my criminal law trial in French?
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Reviewed: 
November 26, 2018
Answer

The Criminal Code of Canada says that if you're French-speaking, you have the right to have your preliminary inquiry and trial in French. This means that the judge, the Crown prosecutor, and the jury must be able to understand and speak French during your trial. 

Your lawyer or paralegal if you have one, and the judge or the justice of the peace before whom you first appear must tell you about your right to have your preliminary inquiry and trial in French. If you want a French trial, you must let the court know as soon as possible.

You don't have an automatic right to get your disclosure in French. Disclosure is the information that the police and the Crown have about your case. But the court can order that some of your disclosure be translated at no cost to you to allow you to prepare and present your defence.

And, your right to have proceedings in French doesn't apply to other types of hearings such as bail hearings, first appearances, or guilty pleas. But, some courts have provided bail hearings and guilty pleas in French on request. For example, in Ottawa.

In most cases, you should ask for an interpreter for these other hearings through the court. The availability of interpreters and other French services depends on the type of proceeding, court location in Ontario, and level of court. 

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