The Quebec Judicial System
The Judicial System
Courts of First Instance
Courts of first instance are the first to hear a case. They are hearing witnesses and deal with evidence.
In Quebec, these courts include the municipal courts, Court of Quebec, Superior Court, Federal Court and The Human Rights Tribunal.
Municipal short deals with two kinds of cases:
- civil cases where municipalities try to claim money
- Where are the municipalities of the Highway Safety Code.
In some cities, municipal judges can also hear criminal cases dealing with less serious offenses, such as assault or impaired driving.
Court of Quebec
The Court of Quebec includes three divisions: the Civil Division (which includes the Small Claims Division), the Criminal and Penal Division, and the Youth Division. The Civil Division hears cases involving claims of less than $ 85,000. The Court of Quebec also hears appeals from administrative tribunals, such as the Régie du logement (rental board).
Cases involving $ 15,000 or less to the Small Claims Division (often called small claims court). In this division, people can not be represented by a lawyer.
The Criminal and Penal Division of the Court of Quebec hears criminal cases dealing with less serious offenses and cases where the accused chooses to be heard by a judge alone. It also deals with cases involving criminal laws other than the Criminal Code. The Youth Division hears cases of adoption and youth protection and criminal cases.
The Superior Court decides worth $ 85,000 or more. It is the only court able to decide injunctions, class actions and anything that the Code of Civil Procedure qualifies as an “extraordinary recourse” (habeas corpus, prohibition, etc.). It hears all cases of divorce and bankruptcy and cases that are not assigned to another court.
The Superior Court also hears criminal and penal cases. Jury trials are held there and so are trials for serious crimes (eg, murder, attempted murder, high treason).
Finally, the Superior Court acts as an appeal court for decisions in cases of less serious offenses. Only this court can hear an “evocation” case, where the court can reverse a decision of a court, public institution or professional corporation that has exceeded its powers.
The Federal Court hears cases dealing with matters which are federal government responsibilities under the Canadian Constitution. It hears appeals from decisions of some federal government bodies. It also decides between provinces, or between provinces and the federal government. It is a case of immigration, copyright, patents, taxes and admiralty.
The Human Rights Tribunal
The Human Rights Tribunal hears cases dealing with discrimination, harassment or exploitation under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The Court has its own judges but it uses the clerks and the Court of Quebec.
Not everyone can bring a case to the Human Rights Tribunal. The Commission on Human Rights and Youth Rights (Commission des droits de la personne) The advantage is that the country commission the fees!
These courts hear appeals from the courts of first instance. There are usually no witnesses. Only points of law are debated.
In Quebec, the appeal courts are the Federal Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal of Quebec and the Supreme Court of Canada.
Federal Court of Appeal
The Federal Court of Appeal hears appeals from Federal Court decisions. It also deals with requests for judicial review of decisions of the CRTC.
Court of Appeal of Quebec
The Court of Appeal of Quebec hears appeals from the courts of first instance. Note that decisions of the Federal Court can only be reviewed by the Federal Court of Appeal. Also, decisions of the small claims can not be appealed.
But not all decisions can be appealed. In other cases, you must ask permission.
To win, the appellant has to convince the judges of the Court of Appeal that the first judge made a mistake of law or made conclusions about the facts that the evidence does not support. The other party has the right to argue the opposite.
The Court of Appeal of Quebec can also decide controversial issues of law, called reference. Sometimes there is a question of law (for example, a law should be interpreted). The Court of Appeal decides the matter.
Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is composed of nine judges and is the final court in the land. Except for some criminal cases, you need permission to bring an appeal here. This permission can be taken after reviewing the file with the people involved in Ottawa.
The Supreme Court hears appeals from provincial or territorial appeal courts and the Federal Court of Appeal. It decides provincial references (eg, reference to the separation of Quebec) and questions submitted by the federal government, like the legality of gay marriage.