The Court of Québec is the court of first instance that hears the largest volume of court cases in the province of Québec. It has jurisdiction over civil matters, criminal and penal matters as well as over youth matters. The Court sits in administrative matters as well, and in appeal, to settle cases provided for by the law. It is also a court of record.
The Professions Tribunal hears appeals relating to professional ethics and the Human Rights Tribunal has the responsibility of hearing appeals based, in particular, on discrimination. The judges who are members of these tribunals are judges of the Court of Québec.
The Civil Division
Under the Courts of Justice Act, in civil matters, the Court’s judges have jurisdiction – within the limits provided for by the law – with regard to civil actions initiated under the Code of Civil Procedure or any other law.
The judges have authority to hear all plaintiff claims involving monetary value or interest – in relation to the object of the dispute – that are less than $85,000, except claims for alimony, class actions and those reserved for the Federal Court of Canada.
The judges also have jurisdiction, under the law, to settle actions to recover municipal or school taxes and to annul or reverse municipal or school board assessment rolls. Their jurisdiction also extends to actions contesting a person taking office in a municipality or school board.
Moreover, the judges hear actions to have a person undergo a psychiatric examination or confined to an institution.
In addition, the judges exercise powers granted to them by various laws. Court of Québec judges have exclusive jurisdiction to hear the appeals of decisions rendered, for example, by Commission d’accès à l’information, Régie du logement, the Administrative Tribunal of Québec, the Police Ethics Committee and ethics committees formed under the Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services and the Real Estate Brokerage Act. Such jurisdiction to hear appeals, regardless of their monetary value, also applies to decisions of Agence du revenu du Québec, with regard to tax matters. Since May 2007, judges from all regions who are designated within the Administrative and Appeal Division of the Civil Division of the Court of Québec have assumed this jurisdiction.
In addition, the judges sit in the Small Claims Division to hear cases involving debts amounting, since January 1, 2015, to a maximum of $15,000, payable by a person, and under certain conditions, by a legal entity, a partnership or an association. Before January 1, 2015, this amount was $7,000. This division is different from the others, however, given the fact that the parties cannot be represented by a lawyer here, except upon special permission, when the dispute raises complex questions of law. There are no formalities in this division and the written procedure is simplified here. When circumstances so allow, the judges may try to bring the parties to an agreement, while explaining to them the rules of proof and procedure. They direct the proceedings, question witnesses, hear parties, decide on disputed matters as well as applicable rules of law. These judges give equitable and impartial assistance to each party, so as to render the substantive law effective and look after any legal consequences. The judgement rendered cannot be appealed. People under the jurisdiction of the Court may also file a summary appeal with the Small Claims Division in relation to tax matters.
The Criminal and Penal Division
The Courts of Justice Act establishes that the Court’s judges have jurisdiction, within the limits stipulated by the law, in relation to actions taken under the Criminal Code, the Code of Penal Procedure or any other law of a criminal or penal nature.
In criminal matters, Court’s judges preside over legal proceedings that come under the jurisdiction of a provincial court judge and a judge without a jury, with regard to charges laid under the Criminal Code or any other law of the same nature. They also preside over proceedings relating to offences punishable by summary conviction, pursuant to the provisions of Part XXVII of the Code. Only offences restricted to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Superior Court – including those that are heard before a judge and a jury – are not handled by the judges of the Criminal and Penal Division.
The judges also preside over preliminary inquiries to which people charged under the Criminal Code are entitled in order to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.
In penal matters, the judges and presiding justices of the peace hear actions taken under the Code of Penal Procedure or any other penal legislation relating to offences concerning public welfare, as provided for in Québec and Federal legislation, pursuant to Part XXVII of the Criminal Code.
In matters of judicial authorization, searches, and electronic surveillance, judges and presiding justices of the peace hear all applications under the Criminal Code and any other federal or provincial legislation of a penal nature, as well as applications under the Code of Penal Procedure.
The Youth Division
The Courts of Justice Act establishes the jurisdiction of the Court’s judges with regard to youth matters.
The judges therefore have the authority to exercise the powers and functions of the youth court, in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. In this regard, the judges preside over trials of 12-18-year-olds accused of an offence, upon committing a violation of the Criminal Code.
The judges also have jurisdiction over proceedings initiated under the Code of Penal Procedure, with regard to offences relating to public welfare and committed by defendants between 14 and 18 years of age. The Court judges have exclusive jurisdiction when the accused youth cannot be released or has been placed in the Director of Youth Protection’s custody, if the youth so requests or it is in his or her interest.
Moreover, pursuant to the Youth Protection Act, the judges of this jurisdiction hear cases concerning children whose safety or development is – or may be declared to be – at risk. Once the risk situation has been established to the Court’s satisfaction, the judge orders one or more protection measures to be carried out, as provided for in the Youth Protection Act, in order to put a stop to this situation.
The judges finally hear all cases of adoption, including those involving international adoption, declarations of eligibility for adoption, applications for a placement and adoption order as well as applications for recognition of an adoption order rendered outside Québec.