The Court of Québec owes its origins to the Québec Act of 1774, which re-established French law in civil matters and confirmed English law in criminal matters. At that time, the judicial system was comprised of the Court of Common Pleas, circuit courts, a Court of Appeal and the Court of King’s Bench, for criminal cases.
Over the centuries, the Québec courts underwent many changes, having an impact on their organizational structure as well as on the scope of their jurisdiction. For instance, the Magistrate’s Court, created in 1869, became the Provincial Court in 1962, when the Court of Sessions of the Peace was set up in 1908. The first court for children in Québec was created in 1910. It then became the Juvenile Court in 1932 and the Social Welfare Court in 1950. It was later replaced by the Youth Court in 1977. In 1969, the Labour Court came into being, with judges from the Provincial Court. In 1973, the Expropriation Tribunal was formed and some of its members were judges of the Provincial Court.
The Court of Québec came into existence in 1988, upon the unification of the Provincial Court – whose jurisdiction was strictly civil; the Court of Sessions of the Peace – in charge of hearing criminal cases; and the Youth Court – which had the responsibility of hearing all litigation involving minors.
In 1988, the Court consisted of two regional sections: one in Montréal and the other in Québec City. Each one had a civil division, a criminal and penal division as well as a youth division. At that time, the Court also had an expropriation division.
In those days, the Court was managed by a chief judge, who was assisted in each of the regional sections by a senior associate chief judge, who in turn benefited from the assistance of associate chief judges (three in Québec City and four in Montréal). Nineteen coordinating judges, residing in the chief locations of the main judicial districts in Québec, completed this team.
At the request of the Court, in 1995, the legislator simplified its organization. The regional sections were abolished and the responsibilities of the senior associate chief judge and the associate chief judges were redefined. To coordinate the Court’s activities on its territory, ten coordinating judges were appointed. In some regions, the coordinating judge was assisted by one or more associate coordinating judges.
In 1998, given the creation of the Administrative Tribunal of Québec, the Expropriation Division was abolished. Then in 2002, the Labour Relations Board was replaced by the Commission des relations du travail. From then on, only penal matters of original jurisdiction, with regard to violations under the Labour Code, came under the competence of the Court of Québec’s Criminal and Penal Division, and only the judges appointed by the chief judge had authority to settle these matters.
In 2005, yet another type of judge was created, through the appointment of presiding justices of the peace, who perform their responsibilities within the Court of Québec as well.
In 2007, the Court of Québec created the Administrative and Appeal Division within the Civil Division. The thirty judges appointed to it have exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals from decisions rendered by a number of tribunals and administrative agencies, including Bureau de decision et de revision, Commission d’accès à l’information, Régie du logement, the Administrative Tribunal of Québec, the Police Ethics Committee, and ethics committees governing professionals in matters of financial products and services distribution and real estate brokerage. Such jurisdiction to hear appeals also applies to Agence du revenu du Québec decisions regarding taxation and tax recovery.
In 2012, the adoption of the bill amending the Courts of Justice Act increased the number of judges at the Court of Québec from 270 to 290, added four associate coordinating judge positions, and created a new position of justice responsible for presiding justices of the peace. At the same time, three presiding justices of the peace positions were added, bringing their number to 36.
In 2016, the adoption of the bill amending the Courts of Justice Act increased the number of judges at the Court of Québec from 290 to 306.