Can I have my civil trial in French?

1. Learn about what you get

The French Language Services Act and Courts of Justice Act say that have the right to bilingual proceedings. This means you have the right to ask for:

  • a judge who speaks French and English
  • French court interpreters for witnesses, parties, and lawyers who only speak English or French
  • a French translation of documents used in your case where documents and evidence were given to the court in English at a bilingual proceeding at the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice, the Ontario Court of Justice, or the Small Claims Court
  • a French translation of the judge’s decision where the judge wrote their decision and reasons in English, and if you or your lawyer only speak English or French

Your right to bilingual proceedings also applies to other hearings in your case, like motions, pre-trials, and conferences.

Other rights

Your right to file documents in French depends on the type of proceeding, court location in Ontario, and level of court. For example:

  • Civil matters at the SCJ: you can file pleadings and other documents in French for:
    • civil SCJ proceedings that are held as bilingual proceedings in designated areas
    • civil SCJ proceedings that are held as bilingual proceedings in other areas of Ontario where the parties agree
  • Small Claims Court: you can file documents in French anywhere in Ontario.
  • Family law matters at the OCJ or Family Court of the SCJ: you can file documents in French anywhere in Ontario.
  • Family law matters in the SCJ where there is not Family Court of the SCJ:
    • bilingual proceedings in designated areas
    • bilingual proceedings in other areas of Ontario where the parties agree

Your right to have translations of certain documents also depends on the type of proceeding, court location in Ontario, and level of court. For example:

  • Reasons for decision: for all bilingual proceedings, at the request of a party or lawyer who speak only French or English and not both
  • Documents filed with the court: for all proceedings before the Family Court of the SCJ, the OCJ, and the SCC, at the request of a party
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