Bijuralism in Canada: Harmonization and Terminology
IV. Drafting techniques used in a bijural context
Drafting legislation and regulations is the responsibility of Justice Canada's Legislative Services Branch. Harmonization clauses can form part of general harmonization bills, new legislation, or legislative amendments.
The drafting techniques that shaped Bill S-4 are based on the above-mentioned Policy for Applying the Civil Code of Quebec to Federal Government Activities and on the Report of the Legislative Bijuralism Committee; this Committee is responsible for identifying problems raised in implementing legislative bijuralism, and for proposing solutions.
The Honourable Mr. Justice Michel Bastarache clearly outlined the challenge of bilingual and bijural legislative drafting as follows:
[Translation] […] Federal legislation must be drafted in the English and French languages and in a manner which is compatible with two legal systems. Canada is blessed with four different legal languages and federal legislation must not only be bilingual but bijural. Indeed, federal legislation must simultaneously address four different groups of persons:
- (1) anglophone common law lawyers;
- (2) francophone common law lawyers;
- (3) anglophone Quebec civilian lawyers; and
- (4) francophone Quebec civilian lawyers.
It is crucial that these four legal audiences in Canada be able to both read federal statutes and regulations in the official language of their choice and also be able to find in them terminology and wording that are respectful of the concepts, notions and institutions proper to the legal tradition of their particular province or territory. This task is easier said than done, and the courts should play a role in fostering this task.
Justice Canada took the opportunity provided by the January 1, 1994 coming into force of the Civil Code of Quebec, which overhauled Quebec civil law, to revise its concept of the coexistence of the common law and the civil law traditions in federal legislation and regulations.
As the 1993 Policy for Applying the Civil Code of Quebec to Federal Government Activities points out, bijural wording can be achieved by various means.
The techniques described below can be applied depending on the situation, the structure of the enactment in which the legislative provision is to be included, the legislative corpus as a whole, and the imperative so clearly described by the Honourable Mr. Justice Bastarache of simultaneously addressing four different groups.
Common term (neutral, generic, or general)
This drafting technique consists in using the same term in civil law and common law. Examples include the terms "lease"/"bail" and "loan"/"prêt".
Definition is a legislative drafting technique; in legislative bijuralism, it consists in giving a term a meaning specific to both the civil law and the common law.
Clause 25 of Bill S-4 is a good example of this type of definition which, in this particular case, prevents long recital of terms throughout the text.
"secured creditor" means a person holding a mortgage, hypothec, pledge, charge or lien on or against the property of the debtor or any part of that property as security for a debt due or accruing due to the person from the debtor, or a person whose claim is based on, or secured by, a negotiable instrument held as collateral security and on which the debtor is only indirectly or secondarily liable, and includes
- (a) a person who has a right of retention or a prior claim constituting a real right, within the meaning of the Civil Code of Quebec or any other statute of the Province of Quebec, on or against the property of the debtor or any part of that property, or
- (b) any of
- (i) the vendor of any property sold to the debtor under a conditional or instalment sale,
- (ii) the purchaser of any property from the debtor subject to a right of redemption, or
- (iii) the trustee of a trust constituted by the debtor to secure the performance of an obligation, if the exercise of the person's rights is subject to the provisions of Book Six of the Civil Code of Quebec entitled Prior Claims and Hypothecs that deal with the exercise of hypothecary rights;
« créancier garanti » Personne titulaire d'une hypothèque, d'un gage, d'une charge ou d'un privilège sur ou contre les biens du débiteur ou une partie de ses biens, à titre de garantie d'une dette échue ou à échoir, ou personne dont la réclamation est fondée sur un effet de commerce ou garantie par ce dernier, lequel effet de commerce est détenu comme garantie subsidiaire et dont le débiteur n'est responsable qu'indirectement ou secondairement. S'entend en outre :
- a) de la personne titulaire, selon le Code civil du Québec ou les autres lois de la province de Québec, d'un droit de rétention ou d'une priorité constitutive de droit réel sur ou contre les biens du débiteur ou une partie de ses biens;
- b) lorsque l'exercice de ses droits est assujetti aux règles prévues pour l'exercice des droits hypothécaires au livre sixième du Code civil du Québec intitulé Des priorités et des hypothèques :
- (i) de la personne qui vend un bien au débiteur, sous condition ou à tempérament,
- (ii) de la personne qui achète un bien au débiteur avec faculté de rachat en faveur de celui-ci,
- (iii) du fiduciaire d'une fiducie constituée par le débiteur afin de garantir l'exécution d'une obligation.
The double is a drafting technique that consists in expressing the legal rule applicable to each legal system, in different terms. A double can be simple or paragraphed.
The simple double is a drafting technique that consists in presenting the terms or concepts specific to each legal system, one after the other, as shown in the following example.
The title to the real property or immovable intended to be granted.
le titre sur l'immeuble ou le bien réel est dévolu …
It is worth nothing that, similar to the approach followed in the context of bilingualism where priority is given to the language of the majority of the targeted population in bilingual texts, the common law term (real property) comes first, followed by the civil law term (immovable) in the English version. Conversely, the civil law term (immeuble) comes first followed by the common law term (bien réel) in the French version.
The paragraphed double is a drafting technique that consists in presenting the concepts specific to each legal system in separate paragraphs. Also known in Great Britain as the Scottish clause, this technique is particularly useful when it is necessary to define clearly the application of a legal rule in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.
- (a) in the Province of Quebec extracontractual civil liability, and
- (b) in any other province, liability in tort;
« responsabilité »
- (a) dans la province de Québec, la responsabilité civile extracontractuelle;
- (b) dans les autres provinces, la responsabilité délictuelle.
V. Examples of harmonization problems and solutions
Problems encountered in reading enactments for harmonization are grouped into three types: unijuralism, semi-bijuralism, and apparent bijuralism.
Examples of these types of problems, and the drafting techniques used to harmonize them, follow. All the examples of proposed harmonization solutions are taken from Bill S-4, Federal Law—Civil Law Harmonization Act, No. 1. They are the result of consensus that emerged from internal and external consultations by Justice Canada, particularly with the departments responsible for harmonized legislation, the Quebec ministère de la Justice, the Barreau du Québec, the Chambre des notaires du Québec, the Canadian Bar Association's Quebec Section, and experts in the academic community and private practice.
Unijuralism is a situation that arises, when a legislative provision is based on a concept or term specific only to one legal tradition in both language versions.
An example of unijuralism is found in the terms "special damages"/"dommages-intérêts spéciaux", in subsection 31(3) of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act.
The English term
"special damages" and its French equivalent
"dommages-intérêts spéciaux" are specific to the common law. The correct equivalent civil law concepts are "pre-trial pecuniary loss" and "pertes pécuniaires antérieures au procès".
To solve the problem of unijuralism, the double technique is used to define clearly the application of the legal rule in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, as in the following example.
When an order referred to in subsection (2) includes an amount for, in the Province of Quebec, pre-trial pecuniary loss or, in any other province, special damages . . .
Si l'ordonnance de paiement accorde une somme, dans la province de Québec, à titre de perte pécuniaire antérieure au procès ou, dans les autres provinces, à titre de dommages-intérêts spéciaux …
See Bill S-4, clause 51(2).
Semi-bijuralism is a situation that arises, for example, when a legislative provision is based on concepts or terminology specific to the common law in the English version, and concepts or terminology specific to the civil law in the French version.
An example of semi-bijuralism is found in the terms
"immeuble", in section 20 of the Federal Real Property Act.
This instance of the problem of semi-bijuralism is caused by the use of terminology specific to the common law in the English version only (
"real property") and the use of terminology specific to the civil law in the French version only (
To solve this problem, the French term
"biens réels"is added to the French version in order to reflect the common law terminology in French, and the term "immovable" is added to the English version in order to reflect the civil law terminology in English. These changes can be made using the simple double technique, as in the following example.
A Crown grant that is issued to or in the name of a person who is deceased is not for that reason null or void, but the title to the real property or immovable intended to be granted.
La concession de l'État octroyée à une personne décédée ou à son nom n'est pas nulle de ce fait; toutefois, le titre sur l'immeuble ou le bien réel est dévolu …
See Bill S-4, clause 22.
3. Apparent bijuralism
Apparent bijuralism is a situation that arises when a legislative provision contains civil law terms that are inappropriate in the context for any of the following reasons.
a) Obsolete terminology
Examples of obsolete terminology are the terms
"quasi-délit", in section 2 of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act.
These terms used to exist in Quebec civil law. The concepts they designate, based on the existence of fault, remain unchanged in the new Civil Code of Quebec, but are now referred to by the term
"responsabilité civile extracontractuelle".
By combining the techniques of definition, the neutral terms "liability"/"responsabilité", and theparagraphed double, the problem of obsolete terminology can be solved as in the following example.
- (a) in the Province of Quebec, extracontractual civil liability, and
- (b) in any other province, liability in tort;
« responsabilité »
- a) dans la province de Québec, la responsabilité civile extracontractuelle;
- b) dans les autres provinces, la responsabilité délictuelle.
See Bill S-4, clause 34(2).
b) Inadequate terminology
An example of inadequate terminology is found in the terms "surrender"/
"rétrocession", in paragraph 16(1)(d) of the Federal Real Property Act.
Although the term
"rétrocession" exists in civil law, in this context it does not reflect Parliament's intent but constitutes inadequate terminology that creates a disparity of content. The correct civil law concept here is
"résiliation"; the correct French common law term is
This instance of the problem of apparent bijuralism can be solved by using the simple double technique, as in the following example.
(d) authorize, on behalf of Her Majesty, a surrender or resiliation of any lease …
d) autoriser, au nom de Sa Majesté, soit la résiliation ou la résignationd'un bail …
See Bill-4, clause 18(1).
c) Incompatibility with a new civil law principle
An example of incompatibility with a new civil law principle is found in the French term
"privilège", in section 20 of the Defence Production Act.
This term creates a problem of incompatibility with a new civil law principle because, in the new Civil Code of Quebec, the concept of
"privilège" has been eliminated and replaced in part by the concept of
"priorités et hypothèques" (in English,
"prior claims and hypothecs"). While the French term
"privilège" has been retained for the French common law audience,
"priorités et hypothèques" must be added for Quebec civil law audience.
Using the double technique, wording specific to the civil law has been created to make this provision compatible with the new rule in the Civil Code of Quebec, as in the following example.
… clear of all claims, liens, prior claims or rights of retention within the meaning of the Civil Code of Quebec or any other statute of the Province of Quebec, charges …
… libre de toute priorité ou droit de rétention selon le Code civil du Québec ou les autres lois de la province de Québec, ainsi que de tout privilège ou de toute réclamation, charge …
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