Bill 96: What impact is it having on the Quebec mortgage industry?

The language legislation is causing a stir

Bill 96: What impact is it having on the Quebec mortgage industry?

Recent amendments to Quebec’s Bill 96, a law limiting the use of English in certain settings in the province, have generated plenty of headlines – but how has the legislation affected the mortgage industry?

Among the much-discussed changes that came into play on June 1 included the stipulation that adhesion contracts – non-negotiable documents drafted by a single party – must be presented in a French version before being signed in English.

Franchise agreements, terms of service, and insurance policies are just some of the contract types impacted under the changes.

The new legislation has been highly publicized – but has had little to no impact on the mortgage market as a whole, according to a prominent mortgage broker based in Quebec.

Ryan La Haye (pictured top), of Planiprêt – Groupe RLH, told Canadian Mortgage Professional that despite the media furore, his clients had experienced no difficulties as a result of the amendments.

“Bill 96 has been really overblown here in Quebec in my opinion,” he said. “I oversee over 1,300 mortgage transactions here in the province directly through my team. About 20% of those are English. Total impact: none. Total English clients worried or concerned about the legislation: none.”

Political tensions in the province are often whipped up by the media, La Haye added. “That’s not to say that some misplaced individuals here in Quebec abuse the law and English-speaking Quebecers pay the price,” he said, “but all in all, on the mortgage front I don’t believe any impact will be seen.”

What is Bill 96 and why was it introduced?

Bill 96 was officially approved by lawmakers in May 2022, with the wide-ranging legislation – officially titled “An act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec” – safeguarding the usage of French throughout the province.

The move bids to protect and promote usage of French, one of Canada’s two official languages, in Quebec by limiting English services offered by provincial and municipal bodies.

Where a contract is drawn up in a language other than French, with no French version existing, a consumer can apply for it to be annulled.

In addition to its stipulations for contracts, it also covers advertising and publication – with commercial content intended for the public permitted in English if it is not accessible under more favourable conditions than those of a French version.

While contracts excluded from the new requirements include loan agreements and financial instruments, certain contracts for the sale or exchange of residential properties now must be drafted in French, having hitherto had either/or options for French and English.

Protection for the French language necessary, argue advocates

Quebec premier François Legault dismissed allegations that Bill 96 could be bad for business while on the campaign trail ahead of last year’s provincial election, describing the legislation as achieving a balance between economic growth and protecting the French language.

“I guarantee we will stop the decline of French, including in Montreal, but [also] in Quebec in general,” he said in Montérégie last August.

La Haye said a robust French language protection framework through legislation was a good thing, particularly given what he described as the reluctance of many Anglophone Quebecers to further their knowledge of the language.

Still, he described certain elements of the law as “actually detrimental” to the success of Quebeckers – namely restrictions and caps on enrolment to English CEGEPs (Collèges d'enseignement général et professionnel).

“The restrictions around around post-secondary education are, in my view, a grave mistake limiting mostly French-speaking Quebecers from expanding their career horizons and opportunities,” he told CMP. “As usual, it’s a very grey area and not black and white.”

As for what mortgage professionals based in the province need to concentrate on in light of the new legislation? La Haye said offering bilingual services can be a real asset to brokers in Quebec.

“Mortgage brokers should focus on being able to service their clients in as many languages as possible,” he said, “while respecting the unique and incredible French culture that the province offers.”

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