Generally speaking, an insurance contract in the province of Québec is considered a contract of adhesion since the essential stipulations of the contract are drafted unilaterally by the Insurer, as opposed to a contract of mutual agreement, whose stipulations are negotiated between the parties. In the language of insurance, a so-called “manuscript” policy can generally be qualified as a contract by mutual agreement under the Civil Code of Québec.
Thus, except on rare occasions, an insurance contract is a contract of adhesion subject to the application of section 55 of the Charter of the French Language (Charter). The current wording of section 55 implies that a French version of contracts of adhesion should be available, but the parties may agree to be bound by a version in another language if that is their express wish.
With the new amendments to section 44 of Bill 96, adopted during its detailed study before the Committee on Culture and Education last February, certain insurance contracts could be exempted from the francization requirement. However, applying the amendment would be limited to certain exceptions indicated in the proposed amendments to sections 55, 21 and 21.5 of the Charter, as proposed in Bill 96. Quebec’s National Assembly has not adopted the final text of Bill 96 yet.
In other words, if the National Assembly adopts sections 44, 13 and 14 of Bill 96, as amended on February 17, some insurance contracts with no French equivalent in Quebec that meet certain specific conditions could be drafted only in a language other than French. They would include insurance contracts that originate outside Quebec or those not widely used in the Province of Québec.
At this point, we are awaiting the final text of the amendments to the Charter of the French Language resulting from the official adoption of Bill 96. We are keeping a close eye on its evolution and will keep you informed of any significant developments.