The Right to a in the Official Language of Your Choice

Section 530 of the Criminal Code of Canada provides that a criminal trial can be in either French or English: anywhere in Canada. If you are accused of a criminal code offence, the court has the obligation to advise you of your right to a trial in either French or English. This right ensures that you understand everything that happens at trial: from the witnesses’ testimony to the legal arguments made by the Crown and your lawyer and to the judge’s decision, you need to understand what is going on.

However, the Crown does not have the obligation to translate their case, also known as the “disclosure of the evidence” if it is produced in one of the official languages of Canada. This means that if the police officers’ notes and reports are written in English, but you want a trial in French, the Crown will not translate the documents so that you may understand them.

Even if you can speak both French and English, you have the right to a trial in the language you are most comfortable in. If you chose to have a trial in English, but the witnesses are French, the Court will ensure that all legal arguments are in English, and that the French witnesses have an interpreter so that you may understand what is being said.

Having a bilingual lawyer in these types of circumstances can be very useful: not only will your lawyer be able to correctly read and interpret the Crown’s case, but they can make sure that the interpreter is correctly translating the words spoken by a witness.