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 2002, the position of chief judge of municipal courts was integrated into the Court of Québec and became associate chief judge of the Court of Québec, responsible for municipal courts.

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.

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. In 2012 and 2015, six presiding justices of the peace positions were added, bringing their number to 39.

Finally, the Courts of Justice Act was amended in 2016, 2020, 2022 and 2023 to add a total of 43 Court of Quebec judge positions. Therefore, the Court is today composed of 333 judges.

The provisions of the Loi visant notamment à réformer les cours municipales et à améliorer l’efficacité, l’accessibilité et la performance du système de justice, assented to on December 7, 2023, provide for the creation of the position of municipal chief judge and, consequently, the abolition of the position of associate chief judge of the Court of Québec, responsible for municipal courts. On January 31, 2024, the government appointed the first municipal chief judge, Ms. Nathalie Duchesne.

To learn more about the history of the Court of Quebec:

Sylvio Normand, La Cour du Québec : genèse et développement, Wilson & Lafleur, 2013

Liste des juges en chef depuis la création de la Cour du Québec en 1988

Brochure commémorative – La Cour du Québec : 1988-2013, 25 ans au service des justiciables

Historical vignettes

  1. L'organisation judiciaire au moment de l'entrée en vigueur du nouveau Pacte fédératif de 1867
  2. Le partage des compétences fédérales et provinciales en matière de justice
  3. L'organisation judiciaire civile avant 1988
  4. La justice criminelle et pénale et l'organisation judiciaire québécoise avant 1988
  5. L'organisation judiciaire en matière de jeunesse au XXe siècle
  6. Les juges de paix dans le système judiciaire québécois
  7. La réflexion sur l'unification des tribunaux
  8. Une Cour unifiée de première instance au Québec
  9. Les cours de justice comme milieu de vie