Bijuralism in Canada: Harmonization and Terminology


Policy on Legislative Bijuralism

Why a policy on legislative bijuralism?

Canada has two official languages and two legal systems: the French civil law system in Quebec and the English common law system elsewhere.

The Department of Justice has never set itself an official policy on legislative bijuralism. The context in which federal legislation is prepared has changed a great deal since the end of the 1960s, and the time has come for the Department to move boldly and decisively.

The policy on legislative bijuralism is consistent with the leadership role the department plays in the field of bijuralism at the national level. It is also linked directly to one of the priorities of this Department, access to justice. Indeed, drafting legislative texts that take into account both legal systems is part of the commitment of the Department regarding the improvement of access to justice for all Canadians.

Objective of the legislative bijuralism policy

The policy on legislative bijuralism aims at providing Canadians with federal legislative texts that will reflect, in each linguistic version, the legal system in use in their province.


Since the end of the 1960s, a number of factors have come into play to drastically change the context in which federal acts and regulations are drafted. These factors should logically lead us to officially recognize the central role that bijuralism must occupy in the drafting of legislative texts.

The factors

  • Co-drafting of legislative texts
  • Access to a bilingual and bijural legal education (Ottawa, Moncton, McGill)
  • Production of terminological aids for bijural drafting of acts and regulations
  • Consultations on the French version of federal statutes
  • Plan language
  • Policy for applying the Civil Code of Quebec to federal government activities
  • New Civil Code of Quebec
  • Legislative Services Branch Committee on legislative bijuralism

mandate: to identify legislative bijuralism problems, to propose solutions and to advise drafters on all matters related to legislative bijuralism.

Application of the policy on legislative bijuralism

  • The Department will ensure that all legal counsel in the Department are made aware of the requirements of legislative bijuralism in order for them to be able to take it into account when advising client departments on legislative reforms.
  • The Legislative Services Branch will enhance its capacity to draft bijural legislative texts.


The Department of Justice:

  • formally recognizes that it is imperative that the four Canadian legal audiences (Francophone civil law lawyers, Francophone common law lawyers, Anglophone civil law lawyers and Anglophone common law lawyers) may, on the one hand, read federal statutes and regulations in the official language of their choice and, on the other, be able to find in them terminology and wording that are respectful of the concepts, notions and institutions proper to the legal system (civil law or common law) of their province or territory;
  • will undertake, in drafting both versions of every bill and proposed regulation that touches on provincial or territorial private law, to take care to reflect the terminology, concepts, notions and institutions of both of Canada's private law systems;
  • charges the Legislative Services Branch with the mandate of seeing to the respect and the implementation of legislative bijuralism, in bills as well as in proposed regulations.
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