Quebec law is unique in Canada because while the other Canadian provinces operate under common law, Québec is the only one to have a legal system based on the co-existence of private law and public law:
- French-origin private law (codified law), like the Civil Code of Québec originally based in part on the Napoleonic Code, concerns legal disputes between private parties.
- Public law of English origin (common law) that settles disputes opposing private parties and the State.
Ministère de la Justice
The mission of the ministère de la Justice is to ensure adherence to the rule of law in Québec society and to preserve a credible and dependable system of justice in Québec in which individual and collective rights are respected and maintained.
The ministère de la Justice is required to provide the courts with the material, financial and professional support they need to perform their duties. However, the Ministère does not have the authority to “render justice”. It cannot adjudicate or decide a case. That is strictly the work of the courts. In addition, the Minister of Justice has no power to intervene in the decisions of the courts.
Québec’s court system is made up of various judicial courts, and their jurisdiction is determined by law on the basis of a number of factors, including the nature of the case, geographical location and the amount in dispute. Administrative tribunals (which are not part of the court system), play an important role in dispute resolution.
The Court System
Quebec judicial system includes several hierarchical levels allowing in several cases a superior court to review first instance decisions. In Quebec, courts of first instance include the municipal courts, the Court of Québec, the Superior Court. These courts are governed by the rules of both the Civil Code of Québec and the Code of Civil Procedure. The judicial system include also an appeal court called Court of Appeal of Québec.
Although administrative tribunals may resemble courts, they are not part of the court system. They are specialized bodies (organizations) that hear disputes about government rules and regulations. They are created by statute and focus on very particular areas of law like: Commission des relations du travail, Tribunal des droits de la personne, Tribunal des professions, Conseil de la magistrature, etc.
The Tribunal administratif du Québec was established under the Act respecting administrative justice. It has jurisdiction to make determinations in respect of proceedings brought against administrative decisions rendered by public authorities such as government departments, boards, commissions, municipalities, health care establishments, etc. The Tribunal consists of four divisions: social affairs, immovable property, territory and environment and the economic affairs division.
The Commission des services juridiques is a legal aid commission established under the Legal Aid Act. Its mandate is to ensure that legal aid is provided to economically underprivileged persons. This governmental service provides assistance for economically underprivileged persons to allow them to obtain legal counsel from a lawyer or notary and, if necessary, exercise their rights in a court of law.
The Fonds d'aide aux recours collectifs is an assistance fund for class action suits established under the Act respecting the class action. The mandate of the Fond d'aide aux recours collectifs is to help finance class action suits in first instance or on appeal, and to publish information on the filing of class action suiter. A class action is a procedure that allows a person to sue on behalf of all the persons having sustained the same damage.
Québec Judicial System