On November 3, 2016, the Quebec government declared the coming into force of changes to signage laws under the Charter of the French Language and its Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business that had been announced last spring. The amendments still permit the use of non-French trade-marks that are registered in Canada to be displayed on signs in Quebec, but these must now be accompanied by generic or descriptive terms or slogans in French. Family names are not subject to these rules and may be used on their own.
The government had previously announced its intention to make such changes following the 2015 Quebec Court of Appeal decision relating to the language of signs, which confirmed the right of Quebec businesses to display non-French trade-marks that are registered in Canada without any obligation to include French language descriptive terms or other French wording on signs. The new rules come into effect on November 24, 2016. Any new signs as of that date must comply with the new requirements, while signs that are already displayed can remain in place for three years, at which time all signs will be required to comply with the new regulations.
The Quebec authorities have also published guidelines on the new requirements, which include additional detail on the signage rules and how they may be applied to ensure compliance and the necessary French presence. For example, the French wording on signs must be well lit at all times, be visible and of a permanent nature. The guidelines provide additional detail, including examples on visibility and visual perspective.
It is important for all businesses in Quebec to consider the new regulations carefully before posting any new signs, and to review the new rules and guidelines in order to determine what changes should be made to existing signs prior to November 24, 2019.