Quebec brokers wary of signage bill

July 11, 2022 — BROKERS in Quebec are concerned that changes to the province’s language laws designed to promote French culture could affect the availability of some speciality coverages.

Bill 96, which was adopted in June, includes measures to make French ‘markedly predominant’ in commercial signage and compels companies with 25 to 49 employees to gain French-language certification with more stringent standards that previously applied to companies with 50 to 99 employees.

Mathieu Brunet, outgoing chair of the Regroupement des cabinets de courtage d’assurance du Quebec, said brokers are worried the new law will cause difficulties with finding surety cover and specialty commercial cover such as aviation and marine.

“There are many products that aren’t available from Canadian carriers, so we have to go to the U.S. or U.K. market and those products just don’t exist in French,” said Mr. Brunet, who is VP of MP2B Assurance in Laval, Que.

“The consequence if we can’t offer a product to — for instance — a roofer, is that they are going to have to close their business.”

He noted that insurance contracts cannot be easily translated into French from another language.

Translations require careful review by lawyers and adjusters — making it a complex endeavour, Mr. Brunet said.

The RCCAQ has expressed its members’ concerns to the government, which has already made some adjustments to the requirements.

Mr. Brunet said the new legislation will not be implemented fully until June 2023 and  discussions will continue until then.

There are three points the association is hoping to clarify with the government.

First, if service is not offered in Quebec by any carrier and the broker needs to go to an international carrier, do they need to translate the documents?

Second, if a product is offered by a Canadian carrier in French but it’s offered by another carrier not in French, do they have to choose the French product even if that is notably inferior price or coverage-wise?

And if an international carrier has some type of presence in Quebec, such as one employee, are they no longer considered an international carrier?

More clarity around the new rules should be available in the next six to eight months, Mr. Brunet said.

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