If you own a business selling products to consumers in Canada, and have decided that 2010 is going to be the year you start selling your products to consumers in provinces where English may not be the language of choice for some populations—perhaps Quebec, New Brunswick, and Manitoba offer some intriguing opportunities for your business—there are a few things you need to know about the language legislation governing your product information and labelling before you can start selling your products across Canada.
When it comes to product labelling, the province of Quebec has some specific rules about translating the content and information that appears on your products and packages. Under the Quebec Charter of the French Language, most of the information on the product itself, its container (such as product labels), its outer packaging, as well as any accompanying materials, such as warranties and technical manuals, must be written or translated into French before the product can be sold to retail consumers.
Some things to keep in mind:
- In Quebec, wholesalers are exempt so the language requirements only apply to the retail market.
- In Quebec, product labels may also appear in English or another language, as long as French has equal or greater prominence in comparison to any other language.
- Certain types of products may be exempt from the language laws, including pet food, cosmetics, certain test market products, and some feeds, seeds, fertilizers and pest control products.
- Food, drug-related and other products may be managed under different federal statutes, such as the Food and Drugs Act or the Textile Labelling Act, so you should double check the language requirements for these products separately.
You can read about the specific rules governing commercial documents (catalogues, directories, pamphlets, brochures, etc.), commercial signs and signage, and software on the Office québécois de la langue française website: http://www.olf.gouv.qc.ca/english/infoguides/selling/selling.html
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Must all labels of pre-packaged products be bilingual (English/French)?
The Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA) requires all mandatory information governed by the statute to appear in both English and French on product labels. This mandatory information includes the common or generic name of the product, the quantity, and the contact information of the manufacturer, dealer or importer. Some of this information may be given in a choice of either French or English, such as the name and address of the manufacturer. Nonetheless, most Canadian packaging is fully bilingual in practice because of Quebec’s Charter of the French Language.
- I have another question that isn’t answered here. Where can I go to get more information?
You can access a full version of the Guide to the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations: http://www.bureaudelaconcurrence.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/01248.html
**All of this information is provided for information purposes only. You should double check with a federal or provincial government authority or source before arranging to have your information translated to suit Canada’s language legislation.