Bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings should be available in both official languages

  • January 05, 2021

Litigants in criminal matters and parties to divorce both have a right to hearings in either of Canada’s official languages. It’s only fair that people should have the right to declare bankruptcy – or faillite – in the language of their choice as well, says the CBA’s French-Speaking Common Law Members Section.

In a letter to the federal Justice Minister (available in French only), the Section states that over the past 20 years various groups have made submissions to government recommending that bankruptcy hearings be able to proceed in either official language across the country, establishing a consensus on the importance of the matter.

It also notes that the government established this guarantee in Criminal Code proceedings and, more recently, in the Divorce Act. These, like the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, are federal laws adjudicated at the provincial and territorial levels.

Now is a particularly good time for the government to extend the same types of guarantees to bankruptcy and insolvency matters.

[TRANSLATION] “(S)uch new guarantees would be clearly relevant and advantageous for litigants in a difficult and uncertain economic context where a growing number of individuals and small and medium-sized businesses are turning to the courts to restructure their debt or even declare bankruptcy.”

The Section notes that provinces and territories already have the necessary infrastructure to provide access to justice in criminal matters. Moreover, the government has set aside new funding to provide the same linguistic access in family matters.

[TRANSLATION] “(W)e call on you to develop and enact legislative safeguards to ensure judicial bilingualism in bankruptcy and insolvency matters on a pan-Canadian basis,” the Section writes. “Such guarantees would greatly contribute to the standardization of the use of French in judicial institutions throughout the country.”