Gouvernement du Québec - Justice

The Court System

Québec’s court system is made up of several different courts. The jurisdiction of each court is determined by law on the basis of a number of factors, including the nature of the case submitted, the geographical location of the parties and the amount in dispute.

This document provides an overview of the role played by the main courts in Québec’s court system.
Municipal Courts
The Court of Québec
    • The Civil Division
    • The Criminal and Penal Division
    • The Youth Division.
The Superior Court
The Court of Appeal
The Supreme Court of Canada
For more information

Municipal Courts

There are 88 municipal courts located across Québec, established by the Act respecting municipal courts. Each court is presided over by a municipal judge.

Municipal courts have limited jurisdiction in civil matters, exercised mostly in connection with municipal tax claims. In penal matters, they hear cases involving offences under municipal by-laws and Québec statutes such as the Highway Safety Code.

Municipal courts are also authorized to hear and decide cases concerning offences under Part XXVII of the Criminal Code, which are criminal offences punishable on summary conviction.

Court of Québec

The Court of Québec is a court of first instance with jurisdiction in civil, criminal and penal matters as well as in matters relating to young persons. It also hears administrative matters and appeals, where provided for by law.

The Court of Québec is made up of 290 judges, appointed by the Québec government. It is under the direction of a chief judge, assisted by a senior associate chief judge and four associate chief judges. Ten coordinating judges and twelve associate coordinating judges assist the chief judge and the senior associate chief judge in their duties.

The Court of Québec has three divisions:

Civil Division

The Civil Division has jurisdiction throughout Québec and sits in all judicial districts. It hears applications where the amount claimed or the value of the subject matter of the dispute is less than $85,000, with the exception of applications for child or spousal support.

The Civil Division also hears applications concerning a person's confinement in a health or social services institution for or after a psychiatric assessment, and cases concerning voluntary deposits and municipal and school taxes. It has exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals from certain decisions made by the Administrative Tribunal of Québec and other administrative tribunals such as the Régie du logement.

The Small Claims Division

The Small Claims Division deals with all claims up to $15,000 made by

  • a natural person, or
  • a legal person, partnership, association or other group not endowed with juridical personality that employed no more than ten persons in the twelve months prior to the claim.

The claim may be based on a breach of contract or damage to another person’s property.

Procedure in the Small Claims Division is simple. The person making the claim must self-represent or be represented by a designated mandatary (spouse, relative or friend). The person cannot be represented by a lawyer, unless authorized by the court because of the complexity of the case. However, the person may consult a lawyer to prepare the case. During the hearing the proceedings are conducted by the judge, who examines the witnesses and hears the parties.

A judgment from the Small Claims Division is final and cannot be appealed.

The Small Claims Division also hears certain tax-related claims, involving both income tax and other types of tax. A taxpayer may file an appeal concerning a tax matter to this Division. Since this question is relatively complex, it is preferable to contact Revenu Québec for more information.

Criminal and Penal Division

The Criminal and Penal Division has jurisdiction throughout Québec. Within the limits prescribed by law, it hears proceedings instituted under the Criminal Code, the Code of Penal Procedure and all other penal laws.
In criminal matters, the Criminal and Penal Division hears

  • proceedings for offences punishable on summary conviction under Part XVII of the Criminal Code;
  • proceedings under the jurisdiction of a provincial court judge or a judge sitting without a jury, including cases of theft;
  • breach of a driving prohibition;
  • assault in the form of threats or assault without bodily injury.

In short, the Criminal and Penal Division hears all criminal proceedings with the exception of those tried before judge and jury or that are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Superior Court.

In penal matters, the Division hears proceedings for offences under both provincial and federal legislation.

Youth Division

The Youth Division hears all cases involving minors, such as applications under the Youth Protection Act concerning the security or development of a child under 18 years of age and adoption cases. When hearing an adoption or youth protection case it may also rule on related applications, for example concerning child custody and emancipation.

In criminal matters, the Youth Division applies the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It hears cases in first instance in which individuals between the ages of 12 and 18 are accused of offences under the Criminal Code (including murder) and certain federal statutes.

In penal matters, the Youth Division applies the Code of Penal Procedure in cases involving individuals between the ages of 14 and 18 who are accused of offences under Québec statutes and regulations or municipal by-laws.


The Superior Court

The Superior Court has jurisdiction throughout Québec and sits in all the judicial districts. It is made up of 145 judges, including a chief justice, a senior associate chief justice and an associate chief justice, all appointed by the Government of Canada.
In civil matters, the Superior Court generally hears cases in first instance where the amount at issue is at least $85,000. It has exclusive jurisdiction in family matters such as divorce and support payments.

The Superior Court also hears applications regarding class actions and the probate of wills. It may issue injunctions to stop harmful activities. For example, it can order construction work to cease on property that does not belong to the person performing the work.

In addition, except in certain cases provided for by law, the Superior Court is vested with a general power of judicial review over all courts in Québec other than the Court of Appeal, and over public bodies.

In criminal matters, the Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiction in first instance to try criminal cases involving murder or treason, which are heard automatically before judge and jury. The Superior Court also has jurisdiction in cases for which the accused elects trial by jury. It hears matters of extraordinary recourse, for example when a person is unlawfully detained in prison, or when the legality of a search warrant is challenged.

Like the Court of Appeal, the Superior Court is competent to hear appeals from decisions

  • rendered under the Criminal Code
    • by a judge of the Youth Division, the Criminal and Penal Division or a municipal court, or
    • by a justice of the peace;
  • concerning summary offences such as
    • theft,
    • driving while impaired,
    • cruelty to animals, or
    • prostitution.
The Superior Court hears appeals from decisions made under other federal and provincial statutes.

The Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is the general appeal court for Québec and as such is the province's highest court. It is made up of 20 judges appointed by the Government of Canada, and sits mainly in the cities of Québec and Montréal.
In civil matters, the Court hears

  • appeals from judgments of the Superior Court or the Court of Québec that terminate a proceeding, where the value of the subject matter of the dispute in appeal is $60,000 or more;
  • appeals from certain other judgments, including those that pertain to personal integrity, status or capacity;
  • appeals concerning the special rights of the State or contempt of court;
  • appeals from all other judgments of the Superior Court or the Court of Québec, with leave from a judge of the Court of Appeal.
In criminal and penal matters, the Court of Appeal hears appeals from verdicts of guilt or acquittal and sentences imposed under the Criminal Code or the Code of Penal Procedure.


The Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada is the country's highest court. It is made up of nine judges appointed by the Government of Canada. At least three judges must be chosen from among the judges of the Québec Court of Appeal or the Québec Superior Court, or people who have been members of the Barreau du Québec for at least ten years at the time of their appointment. The Supreme Court sits in Ottawa.

The Supreme Court has final jurisdiction in criminal, civil and constitutional matters.

The Supreme Court may

  • interpret the Canadian constitution,
  • determine the constitutionality of a law, and
  • interpret federal or provincial laws.

It is also responsible for examining questions relating to the powers of Parliament and the provincial governments when such questions are referred to it by the Governor General in Council.

In short, the Supreme Court hears matters of national interest. No lower court can render a judgment that goes against a Supreme Court decision.

The decisions of the Supreme Court are always final and without appeal. As a rule, since the Supreme Court decides which cases it will hear, appeals can only proceed once leave to appeal has been granted.


Please note

People sometimes believe, incorrectly, that the Ministère de la Justice “renders justice”. Although it is required to provide the courts with the material, financial and professional support they need to perform their duties, the Ministère de la Justice 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.

For more information

Québec courts website
     • The Courts of Québec Clicking on this icon will take you to another website.
Preparing to testify in Criminal Court:
     • Witnesses: Your role in Criminal Court
Preparing to testify in Youth Court:
     • Witnesses: Your role in Youth Court
Serving as a juror (qualification, selection, conditions):
     • Jury Duty
The conduct of civil proceedings:
     • Civil Suit
The Small Claims Division of the Court of Québec:
     • Small Claims
The various stages in the judicial process for minors:
     • The Youth Criminal Justice Act: The legal procedure
     • Victims of crime - Understanding the youth criminal justice system
Justice Process
     • Adult Criminal Justice Process
Rules of application for the program to deal non-judicially with adults:
     • Program to deal non-judicially with certain criminal offences committed
       by adults
How settlement conferences are conducted:
     • The facilitation conference in criminal and penal matters - Court of Québec
     • The settlement conference in civil cases - Court of Québec
     • The settlement conference in youth protection cases - Court of Québec
     • Settlement Conference of the Superior Court of Québec
     • Court of Appeal of Québec Conciliation Service Program
The addresses and telephone numbers of Québec courthouses:
     • Courthouses
Which judicial district a municipality is located in:
     • Search for a judicial district
Forms in use in court administration:
     • Index of forms

The content of this document is strictly informative and has no legal value.

If you find some of the information difficult to understand, do not hesitate to contact us. Please note, however, that we cannot interpret the information to apply it to a specific situation.


Latest update: January 5, 2016

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