1.6. Translation of regulations
“ATTENTION : Les règlements ne sont pas tous bilingues. Consulter l’interface anglaise pour accéder à tous les règlements en vigueur.”
(WARNING: Not all regulations are bilingual. For access to all current regulations, see the English interface.)
— Home page of e-Laws, Government of Ontario17
At the moment, Ontario regulations are translated into French at the discretion of the Attorney General. The reason is quite simple: provincial regulations do not have to be bilingual to be valid. This practice is far from compliant with the spirit of the French Language Services Act, and consequently, the Commissioner’s Office is actively pursuing this issue, which is especially important because some regulations directly affect the public’s health and safety.
For example, because Ontario’s Fire Code is available in English only, City of Ottawa firefighters had to include English excerpts from the regulation in reports written in French.
The situation is similar in construction, as Ontario’s Building Code is only available in English. In fact, a builder in the designated area of Sudbury complained to the Commissioner’s Office, saying he did not have the resources to translate the Code for his employees.
The Building Code Act, 1992, governs the construction, significant renovation, change of use, and demolition of buildings. Property owners are required to obtain a building permit prior to undertaking work addressed by the Act. However, it is difficult for them to comply with the Code’s requirements if they do not understand the English version and the intricacies of the regulation. An Ottawa property owner complained about this situation to the Commissioner’s Office:
[Translation] “The fact that Ontario’s Building Code has not been translated leaves me open to a charge of not complying with the regulation if I don’t understand it perfectly.”
However, there is some good news: the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is planning to translate Ontario’s voluminous Building Code into French. The Ministry has started work on the next edition, which is proposed to be published in 2018, and intends to have it translated.
Some regulations clearly contain important safety or health information, especially in relation to the workplace. A recommendation on this point was made in 2009 to the Ministry of the Attorney General to adopt criteria for prioritizing the translation of regulations. In fact, the Commissioner still has his list of nine proposed criteria. In response, the Ministry promised to review its processes.
The Commissioner acknowledges that a great deal of work has been done on translating regulations. By the end of 2015-2016, 46,5% of all English-only regulations had a French version. To put it in perspective, however, that means that barely half of Ontario’s regulations have been translated since the French Language Services Act was passed 30 years ago.
The Commissioner therefore recommends that the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs propose that the revised Act give the Lieutenant Governor in Council the power to make a regulation on the criteria to be met for the translation of regulations, rather than leave it entirely to the discretion of the Attorney General.
The government could then adopt a regulation containing criteria for the translation of regulations, based on the nine criteria suggested by the Commissioner in 2009.
17 Available online: www.ontario.ca/fr/Lois (page consulted in May 2016).