Canada is an officially bilingual country. So are all businesses in Canada legally required to operate in French and English? Not exactly! But it makes good business sense to do so.

The Official Languages Act of 1969 establishes Canada as officially bilingual. The requirement is meant for the federal government and related agencies and calls upon them to communicate with Canadians in French or English – at all times. In other words, it says nothing about businesses or other organizations. So what does this mean for your online presence?

Your Website is your way into people’s homes, offices, hearts and minds. In Canada, 7.7 million of them – or 23.2% – speak French, while 24.8 million – or 75% – speak English. If they land on your unilingual Website, you might just be losing out on a great opportunity to connect with potential clients, donors, supporters or employees.

What about Quebec and Bill 101, you ask? In Quebec, French needs to take precedence over English on printed material, from product labels, advertising and brochures to employment applications, brand names and computer software. Websites also need to have a French version, along with the English, if a business has offices in Quebec and advertises its products and services in the province. Here again, remember that it’s more than a legal matter; it’s about reaching out to your prospects.

A high quality, culturally sensitive, bilingual Website will let you engage a wider audience and showcase your good corporate citizenship and solid grasp of the culture. So don’t sell yourself short with merely a unilingual Website!

Source: Statistics Canada 2011