Jurilinguistic Management in Canada

Iliana Auverana
(Language Update, Volume 3, Number 3, 2006, page 22)

Since its inception in the early 1980s, jurilinguistics has broadened its scope. As Jean-Claude Gémar states in the new work Jurilinguistics: Between Law and Language, [translation] "It is no longer limited to the parent fields of legislation and translation, but also includes lexicography and terminology, drafting all types of legal texts—in particular court decisions and contracts—their revision and interpretation."Footnote 1 The evolution of jurilinguistic needs and government policies in this area as well as the initiatives of jurilinguists allow us to talk about jurilinguistic management. This expression refers to all the programs or activities established to manage the linguistic needs of Anglophones and Francophones in a legal context. Given Canada’s particular situation as a bijural and bilingual country, government and the legal community play a specific role in Canadian jurilinguistic management. Drawing in part on the language management model,Footnote 2 we will present, in three parts, some of the programs or activities developed.

Status of the language of law

In 1978, the Department of Justice established the policy on joint drafting of federal statutes and regulations in English and French. Legislative drafters are supported by jurilinguists.Footnote 3 With the coming into force of the Civil code of Québec in 1994, the Department also implemented the program to harmonizeFootnote 4 federal legislation with Quebec civil law. This initiative and the Department’s 1995 policy on legislative bijuralism ensure that the English and French versions of legislative texts reflect the legal concepts, institutions and terminology of civil and common law.

The associations of French-speaking jurists of the various common law provinces (AJEF) and their federation are working to improve integration of the French language in the practice of law. They offer jurilinguistic services to improve access to justice for official language minorities in the language of their choice.

The linguistic code

Financed by the Access to Justice in Both Official Languages Support Fund of the Department of Justice as part of Promoting Access to Justice in Both Official Languages (PAJLO), the Centre de traduction et de terminologie juridiques in Moncton (CTTJ) and the Centre for Legal Translation and Documentation in Ottawa (CLTD) are working on the standardization of French common law terminologyFootnote 5 with the Institut Joseph-Dubuc in Winnipeg, the Quebec Research Centre for Private and Comparative Law (QRCPCL) and the Translation Bureau. Accordingly, in March 2005, the Law of Trusts Glossary (Common Law) was published. A partial publication on the terminology of the law of contracts and the law of torts will soon be available on the Translation Bureau and Justice Canada sites.

Furthermore, the Department of Justice funds both the Juridictionnaire: Recueil des difficultés et des ressources du français juridiqueFootnote 6, draft versions of which have been published periodically since 1991, and research projects to update JURITERM (the common law terminology bank).

Quebec civil law terminology is catalogued by the QRCPCL. The Centre is developing a new version of the Private Law Dictionary and Bilingual Lexicons that will be divided into a series of independent dictionaries. Two of these dictionaries have already been published,Footnote 7 and others are being written.Footnote 8 The English-French aspect of these dictionaries is funded by the Support Fund.

To promote jurilinguistic work in Canada and exchanges among jurilinguists and other legal language professionals, the Department of Justice created the Summer Jurilinguistics Institute. Its first annual meeting was on August 5, 2005, at the Faculty of Law of McGill University.


The Institut Joseph-Dubuc provides jurilinguistic training for court staff, lawyers and judges from accross the country. It also has a professional development program for bilingual prosecutors.

Recently, the School of Translation and Interpretation at the University of Ottawa established a masters program in legal translation intended for jurists who are interested in specializing in legal translation, revision or drafting. This program is considered to be the first in its kind in North America.

It is evident from the various organizations and events dealing with legal language in Canada and abroad that jurilinguistics is expanding. Here are a few examples: the International French Common Law Centre (IFCLC), Unidroit, the Law Commission of Canada, the European Union, the African Union, as well as Cross-examining Private Law, the conference held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the QRCPCL, the publication of the international collection Jurilinguistique : entre langues et droits / Jurilinguistics: Between Law and Language and the preparation of the Pan-American Dictionary of Franchise Law (English-French-Spanish), edited by Jean-Guy Belley. Without a doubt, Canada has expertise in jurilinguistics that is worth finding out about.

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