Law and and Government Services

Federal Government

The Federal government provides services in French in several offices. According to the Public Service Agency, 7.9% of the 6,832 Federal civil service positions in Manitoba are designated bilingual.

Provincial Government

The number of positions that are designated bilingual grew from 376 in 1999-2000 to 812 in 2006-2007. In 2007-2008, 71% of the positions with a bilingual designation were held by bilingual employees.

There is no provincial statute to enforce Manitoba's obligations under article 23 of the Manitoba Act of 1870 despite the fact that the 1890 statute abolishing bilingualism was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1979.

In 1989, the province of Manitoba adopted a policy aiming to provide, as much as possible, services in French in regions of the province with a high concentration of Francophones. This policy applied especially to general correspondence, public forms, written information destined for the general public, posters and public notices. Although without any legal basis, this policy has had some impact on making French more visible, particularly where the Francophone population is most concentrated. In 1999, following publication of the Chartier Report on French services, the provincial government adopted a new policy, which aims to improve French language services. This new policy led to the creation of bilingual service centers. These centres are located in regions of the province with the heaviest concentration of Francophones and actively offer a range of government services. Each centre is targeted towards the specific needs of the region it serves. The Federal government has shown interest in the idea of offering services to the public through these centres. During consultations to identify the services to be offered in the new Centres, other organizations asked to participate.

The Bilingual Service Center – Urban Region officially opened in April 2002, the Red River Region Centre in October 2002 and the Mountain Region Centre in March 2003. Three other centres are planned in Saint-Vital (Winnipeg), Sainte-Anne-des- Chênes and Saint-Laurent.

For its 25th anniversary in 2006-2007, the French Language Services Secretariat became the Francophone Affairs Secretariat.


Including Winnipeg, there are 17 bilingual municipalities, represented by the Association des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba (AMBM). The 16 others are:

  • The city of Sainte-Anne
  • The rural municipality of Alexander
  • The rural municipality of De Salaberry
  • The rural municipality of La Broquerie
  • The rural municipality of Montcalm
  • The rural municipality of Ritchot
  • The rural municipality of Saint-Laurent
  • The rural municipality Taché/Lorette
  • The rural municipality of Ellice
  • The village of Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes
  • The village of Saint-Claude
  • The village of Saint-Lazare
  • The village of Saint-Léon
  • The village of Saint-Pierre-Jolys
  • The village of Somerset
  • The village of Powerview/Pine Falls
  • The AMBM plays a leadership role in advising its
  • members on bilingualism issues.

Legal Services

Judicial bilingualism was abolished in 1890 but reestablished in 1979 because of the Forest case. The rules of procedure in the courts are now proclaimed and published simultaneously in both English and French. This also applies to posters in courthouses. However, bilingual and Francophone personnel (magistrates, personnel responsible for hearings) are few. Even though all personnel take French courses, these do not include French legal terminology. The Institut Joseph-Dubuc, a training and resources centre for judicial and legal professionals as well as Frenchspeaking jurists in the Canadian West, the North and the Maritimes, has dedicated itself since 2004 to teaching judicial French. Training is offered to provincial Department of Justice personnel, including Crown Prosecutors, in all the aforementioned provinces and territories.

There is a tradition in Manitoba requiring bilingual or French speaking judges to preside at each of the tribunals in the province. At the Court of Queen's Bench (general division), there are 5 Francophone judges, including one for the family division. There are currently three bilingual judges at the Provincial Court. At the Appeals Court there are two judges who can hear cases in French without translation. Furthermore, a bilingual circuit court hears cases monthly at the Saint-Pierre-Jolys Bilingual Services Centre.

Since October 1995, the government of Manitoba has assumed responsibility for providing simultaneous interpretation services at preliminary hearings and cross-examinations that are conducted entirely or partially in French. However, there are no legal restrictions regarding this measure. This is why Manitoba's Francophone community, under the leadership of the Société franco-manitobaine, undertook in 2008 an analysis process on the feasability of an eventual Bill on French-language services in Manitoba.

The Association des juristes d'expression française du Manitoba (AJEFM) is active in both the political and judicial sectors. Among its roughly 100 members are lawyers, judges, public servants and other professionals capable of offering a wide range of law and justice-related French-language services. The AJEFM's mission is to:

  • Advocate for increased access to French-language services related to the administration of justice in Manitoba;

  • Ensure the popularization of law in French;

  • Raise awareness of language rights among the Frenchspeaking public.

Generally speaking, the AJEFM is interested by any issue that stems directly from its mandate. Its ultimate goal is to ensure true bilingualism in the administration of justice in Manitoba.

The two largest police forces in the province, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Winnipeg Police, are subject respectively to the Official Languages Act and the City of Winnipeg Charter Act and must offer bilingual services. The RCMP now has specific policy guidelines outlining the principle of "active offer" and its Saint-Pierre-Jolys detachment is entirely bilingual. In order to better serve the areas with a high concentration of Francophones, the RCMP has set up bilingual service centres in several small communities.