Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss filed a complaint last month with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL), saying that a Quebec-based corporation filing Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax returns cannot obtain the necessary forms and documents in English.

Staviss, who has been working with Côte St. Luc councillor Ruth Kovac to encourage businesses to post signs and send out communications to the public in English as well as French, pointed out to The Suburban that Quebec’s language law requires that the forms be in French only.

“I am of the opinion that as the GST/HST is a federal matter,” Staviss told The Suburban. “The Official Languages Act should have precedence over the Charter.”

Staviss filed his complaint by e-mail with Simon Hamel-Genest of Official Languages. Staviss’ e-mail, which enclosed the French-only documents, informed the OCOL official that “anything dealing with corporations is available solely in French.

On the other hand, “an individual filing GST/HST – QST Returns has the option of obtaining and filing the appropriate forms in either French or English. [But] because of the Charter of the French Language (Charter), a corporation in Quebec does not have that option as the appropriate forms can only be obtained and filed in French.

“Seeing that the GST/HST is a federal matter, shouldn’t a corporation have the right to obtain the forms and documents in either French or English?” Staviss added. “I believe that this falls under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.”

The OCOL official responded Oct. 10 that “due to the complexity of the issue raised, our legal team will need to formulate a formal legal opinion before giving us an answer. Therefore, the analysis of the admissibility of your complaint will have to wait for this document due around Oct. 31.”

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