Plain legal French in Canada and in the world - Nicole Ferbach


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Plain legal French in Canada and in the world - Nicole Ferbach

  1. 1. Plain legal French in Canada and in the world: linguistic and legal challenges Nicole-Marie Fernbach, LL.M. Lisbon | October 12, 2010
  2. 2.  Canada is a a bilingual country with two official languages: English and French  Canada has two legal systems: common law and civil law Plain legal French in Canada: linguistic and legal context ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 2
  3. 3. “The Constitution Act, 1867 requires federal laws to be enacted in both official languages and makes both versions equally authentic. It is therefore of primary importance that bills and regulations be prepared in both official languages. It is not acceptable for one version to be a mere translation of the other. For this reason, sponsoring departments and agencies must ensure that they have the capability to develop policy, consult, and instruct legislative drafters in both official languages. Both versions of legislation must convey their intended meaning in clear and accurate language. It is equally important that bills and regulations respect both the common law and civil law legal systems since both systems operate in Canada and federal laws apply throughout the country. When concepts pertaining to these legal systems are used, they must be expressed in both languages and in ways that fit into both systems.” “Cabinet Directive on Law-making” Privy Council Office: Plain legal French in Canada: linguistic and legal context (cont’d) ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 3
  4. 4. Bilingualism and bijuralism - an illustration ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 4
  5. 5. ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 5 Bilingualism and bijuralism – an illustration (cont’d) “[I]t is imperative that the four Canadian legal audiences (Francophone civil law lawyers, Francophone common law lawyers, Anglophone civil law lawyers and Anglophone common law lawyers) may, on the one hand, read federal statutes and regulations in the official language of their choice and, on the other, be able to find in them terminology and wording that are respectful of the concepts, notions and institutions proper to the legal system (civil law or common law) of their province or territory.” (not underlined in the original) Policy on Legislative Bijuralism, Department of Justice of Canada, 1995
  6. 6. Bilingualism and bijuralism – an illustration (cont’d) ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 6 Consequently, the drafting of laws in French was inspired by the following sources:  French-Canadian “Légistique”: Guide fédéral de jurilinguistique législative française (JLF)  Québec “Légistique”: Guide de rédaction législative, TREMBLAY, R. et al.,  Legislative Drafting in France, Belgium, Switzerland and the EU (see, infra, Ref. p.16)
  7. 7.  When did it all start? • The Canadian Law Information Council (Plain Language Center, 1988-1992) • The National Plain English Conference, in Cambridge, UK, A meeting with Clarity and the Plain English Campaign, in July 1990 1. Plain French in law: the plain language movement in Canada ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 7
  8. 8. A Canadian approach to Drafting in French started to develop under the influence of Clarity and the Plain English Movement, from other Commonwealth jurisdictions and the USA.  Sparer et Schwab (1980). Rédaction des lois : rendez-vous du droit et de la culture, Québec.  The Law Reform Commission of Canada (1981). Drafting Laws in French, Study Paper, Ottawa. (same authors and M. Lajoie) But there was a missing link? 1.1 Plain French in law: a French connection ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 8
  9. 9.  A problem with labels or key-words: Plain language, clarity, readability, clear language, simplification, clear and simple language, simple language, ordinary language/langage clair, clarté, lisibilité, simplification, langage clair et simple, langage simple, langue accessible, communication claire et efficace.  Necessary distinction between plain French and plain legal French: Uncertain boundaries. Hierarchy. “Whatever the type – legislation, a technical report, minutes, a press release or speech – a clear document will be more effective, and more easily and quickly understood.” (“How to write clearly”)  “Plainness” in translation: Plain French, as genuine or a product of translation or of adaptation. “Translation+” 1.2 Plain French in law: a link to be made ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 9
  10. 10.  Purpose of readability in law (Lisibilité juridique) • A written communication strategy or style that makes the most of all the resources of the language in order to create a document that is read, understood and memorized for action. • France and Belgium: psycholinguistic research on intelligibility and reading.  Subjects of Lisibilité juridique • Statutes and regulations, judicial decisions, contracts, or other legal documents and their derivatives (documents aiming at explaining the law).  Civil law and French legal culture • A citizen’s right to understand the law. Compliance with drafting rules. ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 10 1.3 Plain French in law: a link that was made … in 1990
  11. 11. 2. Legal writing and drafting in plain French: achievements and challenges ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 11 In Canada, as of 1990, plain French: welcomed by drafters and writers in common law jurisdictions as it ensured parallelism between the 2 versions, be it statutory drafting, court decisions, contract writing or government communications (strategic planning); welcomed and integrated by writers and decision-makers in Québec departments and government communications services, within simplification programs and strategic planning; considered essential for graphic and design solutions, reader-oriented for forms and general public information; welcomed and integrated in community, literacy, adult education and public legal information areas; elsewhere: in France and Belgium, recognized insofar as plain language is a means towards “simplification”; however, Belgium is a leader in simple judicial and administrative writing (EASI-WAL). See SIMPLEX in Portugal.
  12. 12. A. No need for a new set of rules, as civil law is already “plain”  Codification and revision on an ongoing basis (obsolete, archaic, Latin or foreign terms, formal inconsistencies removed, no change in substance).  Lexical choices mostly from the dictionary of common usage. Avoidance of unnecessary definitions. The dictionary rules…  Logical structure, deductive inferences, from general to specific, old to new, rule to application, cause to consequence…  Synonyms and horizontal strings of nouns not allowed.  Simple syntactical structures, subordinates to be avoided, if possible; one-sentence provisions. Strict paragraphing: no discursive style.  Present tense, active voice.  Over referencing to be avoided.  ….. 2.1 Plain French: a hard sale… at first ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 12
  13. 13. B. Reasons for resistance found in the “continental” style  Linguistic specificity: English language is not rule-based, it is a loose system; Latin structures or words are foreign to Saxon culture, but clear in French. Opacity due to poor writing technique and ignorance of the rules of grammar, usage and composition.  Systemic differences: Common law is precedent-based, hence the importance of Court-tested language, a source of difficulty for lay persons. Enumerations used to be exhaustive; no implied meaning, as in the deductive approach. Civil law is plainer.  Deductive approach in civil law closer to cognitive process: from general to specific. Legislation is to be objective, general, permanent and impersonal. Not to be adapted to the reader as in audience segmentation.  Formal resistance: if it looks like a statute… therefore it must be a statute. No place for tables, charts, examples, pictures, etc., so as to keep the normative nature of the text. 2.1 Plain French : a hard sale… at first (cont’d) ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 13
  14. 14.  A reader-oriented simplification: except for statute and regulations, legal documents would indeed prove easier to read and to use  Choice of words: less syllables, more common usage, no foreign words, no Latin, concrete, definition of technical terms, short nouns  Short and simple sentences: except for statutes and regulations, legal documents would have easier to retain information, active voice, more verbs and positive tone  Clear meaning: no ambiguity, no jargon or “cut-and-paste”, “broiler plate” type, with a testing of forms and brochures  Attractive and user-friendly design and organization: essential role of graphic designers for tables, pictures, cartoons, symbols, math. formulas… except for statutes and regulations. 2.2 “Clear French” as a model both accepted and convincing      ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 14
  15. 15.  Canada and Québec: integration of plain French by courts, whether judicial or administrative, Canadian Judicial Institute, Bar associations, securities commissions, banks, Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, insurance and trust companies. Search by keyword.No central URL.  Belgium: French style guide; government training programs in “lisibilité juridique”, research and publication of text books by judicial bodies, standardization in regulation-making (templates)  Switzerland: express and declared acceptance of some of the principles of plain French writing, gender-neutral structures, etc.  France: Conseil pour la simplification du langage administratif (COSLA)(2003): Style Guide; Lexicon, now Le Décodeur, Ed.Robert.  European Union: Joint Practical Guide and Institutional Style guide; “How to write Clearly” and also “Writing for translation”, in French. 2.3 “Clear French” : a new writing style bound to expand in Canada and elsewhere ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 15
  16. 16. References ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 16 ÉDUCALOI (2010). « Dire le droit pour être compris », Conference on plain language and the law, October 21 22, 2010‑ FERNBACH, Nicole (1990). La lisibilité dans la rédaction juridique au Québec, Ottawa, Centre canadien d’information juridique. SAVOIE THOMAS, Sylvette et Gérard SNOW (2010). Listes d’outils linguistiques pour la traduction juridique au Canada VANDERLINDEN, Jacques, Gérard SNOW et Donald POIRIER (2010). La common law de A à Z, Cowansville, Yvon Blais, et Bruxelles, Bruylant. Portail linguistique du Canada: Belgium: CONSEIL D’ÉTAT (2008). Guide de rédaction des textes législatifs et réglementaires. MINISTÈRE DE LA COMMUNAUTÉ FRANÇAISE DE BELGIQUE, Service de la langue française (2000). Écrire pour être lu, comment rédiger des textes
  17. 17. References (cont’d) ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 17 European Union: CENTRE DE TRADUCTION DES ORGANES DE L’UNION EUROPÉENNE (2003). Écrire pour être traduit. EUROPEAN COMMISSION (2009), DG Traduction. Rédiger clairement EUROPEAN COMMISSION. Helping to improve the quality of drafting of Community legislation EUROPEAN COMMISSION. Simplification of legislation glossary EUROPEAN COMMISSION. Better Regulation (Mieux légiférer) EUROPEAN NETWORK FOR BETTER REGULATION. OFFICE DES PUBLICATIONS DE L’UNION EUROPÉENNE. Code de rédaction interinstitutionnel,
  18. 18. References (cont’d) ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 18 France: CONSEIL D’ÉTAT (2007). Guide pour l’élaboration des textes législatifs et réglementaires, 2e éd., Paris, La Documentation Française. CONSEIL D’ÉTAT (2007). Guide de légistique (réédition), La Documentation Française. Spain: GOBIERNO DE ESPAÑA, Ministerio de Justicia (2009). Legislar Mejor 2009. SANTAOLALLA LÓPEZ, Fernando (ed.) (2008). Técnica normativa en la Union Europea, 2 volumes, Secretaría General del Senado. Switzerland: OFFICE FÉDÉRAL DE LA JUSTICE (2007). Guide de législation, Guide pour l’élaboration de la législation fédérale, 3e édition.
  19. 19. Some books ©2010 CIL. May not be reproduced without permission. 19 Min. of Public Works and Government Services of Canada, reprinted since1990
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