Tackling the Regulatory Maze: Bill 96 and Bill 25’s Impact on Quebec’s Business Landscape

In the past year, the government of Quebec has rolled out two significant pieces of legislation that directly impacts small businesses in our area: Bill 96 and Bill 25. Although distinct in their focus, these bills reflect Quebec’s efforts to preserve cultural identity and modernize data protection, respectively, while presenting a set of challenges and opportunities for the business community.

Bill 96 aims to strengthen the French language in Quebec by imposing new language requirements on businesses. They are now required to ensure that their public signage, posters, and commercial advertising comply with enhanced French language stipulations. A notable provision in Bill 96 necessitated the translation of all English court documents into French, although this provision was temporarily suspended by a judge. Although some groups have voiced their opposition to Bill 96, advocating for its withdrawal or a thorough revision, in all likelihood small businesses will need to work within the law and ensure their customers receive service in the language of their choice – or face finds from the Office québécois de la langue française.

Another major piece of legislation, known as Act 25, significantly overhauls the data protection landscape in Quebec, aligning it more with modern standards like the European Union’s famous GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Organizations now face new obligations regarding the collection, communication, and utilization of personal information. This necessitates revised policies and practices to comply with the law. The enforcement of Law 25 introduces hefty fines for non-compliance. Penalties for individuals reach up to $100,000, while private sector companies face fines between CAD $15,000 to CAD $25,000,000 or 4% of their global turnover for the preceding fiscal year, whichever is greater.

How you can become compliant with with Bill 96:

  • Bilingual Website: Updating websites to be bilingual, ensuring that all content is available in both English and French, not only meets the requirements of the law but also provides better service to your clients.
  • Social Posts in 2 Languages: When businesses use social media to promote their business, they must put French first and above the English version.
  • AI Technology for Content Creation: Utilizing AI technology like DeepL or ChatGPT for creating bilingual content for advertising, marketing, and customer engagement.
  • Translation Services: Employing translation services for legal and official documents to meet the translation requirements.
  • Bilingual Staff Training: Investing in training staff to be bilingual, thereby improving communication with the French-speaking clientele. The Quebec government has begun providing free online courses for those anglophones looking to improve their French language skills.

How you can become compliant with Bill 25:

  • Data Protection Measures: If you collect customer data, it’s important to implement robust data protection measures including encryption and secure data storage solutions to comply with privacy standards.
  • Staff Training on Data Handling: Training staff on the new data handling processes to ensure they are well-versed with the privacy standards set by Bill 25.
  • Technology Utilization: Leveraging technology to streamline data collection, communication, and utilization processes, ensuring adherence to the new privacy standards. This includes making any forms on your website opt-in, and providing a popup on your site if you use cookies to track usage.
  • Policy Update: Revising data handling policies and making them easily accessible to both staff and customers to foster transparency and compliance. This can include creating or revising your privacy policy, and designating a “Privacy Officer” for your business.

The challenges of Bill 96 and Bill 25 mirror the province’s evolving regulatory landscape, impacting how businesses operate in Quebec. From language requirements to data protection regulations, these legislative measures underscore the importance of legal compliance in a dynamically changing business environment. However, with proactive measures, informed decisions, and a collaborative approach, businesses in Quebec can not only navigate through these legislative mazes effectively but also harness potential opportunities that come with adherence to a robust legal framework.