The Code of Civil Procedure contains all of the rules that govern how a case is heard by the courts.
On February 20, 2014, Bill 28, An Act to establish the new Code of Civil Procedure, was passed by the National Assembly.
According to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Québec, Bertrand St-Arnaud, the new rules will have a significant impact on access to justice.
“The completion of this reform will help move our civil justice system into the 21st century. In concrete terms, the new provisions will help make our civil justice system more accessible, and will reduce delays, obstacles and costs,” the Minister stated.
An alternative approach to civil justice
The new Code of Civil Procedure is intended to make the civil justice system more accessible, while protecting the rights of all parties to state their claims before a court.
To reduce delays in the justice system, the new Code gives priority to amicable dispute resolution processes such as mediation, arbitration and conciliation, which are less confrontational, more accessible and more likely to ensure a quick outcome.
Parties that opt for a traditional trial in court must ensure that all their applications, pleadings and evidence are proportionate to the nature and complexity of the case, in order to prevent abuses of procedure.
Judges will have greater powers to manage cases, in particular to ensure compliance with the principles of proportionality and cooperation at the heart of the new Code of Civil Procedure. For example, they will be able to reduce the number of examinations and expert opinions required; both these elements have often been identified as causing significant costs or delays for citizens.
Highlights of the new Code
The provisions of the new Code of Civil Procedure are intended, more specifically, to:
- Increase from $7,000 to $15,000 the amount that can be claimed in a case before the Small Claims Division of the Court of Québec;
- Allow parties to make their case orally when presenting or contesting an application as part of a non-complex case, instead of requiring more costly written pleadings;
- Require parties to file a case protocol listing, in particular, the number of pre-trial examinations they intend to conduct and the number of experts they intend to call;
- Encourage the use of joint experts rather than one expert per party, to limit costs and delays;
- Authorize judges to take abuses of procedure or undue delays caused by one party into account when apportioning costs between the parties;
- In family matters, allow de facto spouses, when they decide to separate, to submit applications concerning their patrimonial rights at the same time as applications concerning child custody or support payments, reducing the litigation required;
- In youth protection matters, authorize the Court of Québec, when it is already considering an application concerning adoption or youth protection, to rule at the same time on a question of child custody, the exercise of parental authority, or the emancipation of a minor;
- Allow consumers, insured persons, employees and hypothecary debtors to file or defend a case in the judicial district where they live or where the immovable property concerned is located;
- Encourage the use of information technologies to avoid unnecessary travel, for example by allowing witnesses to be examined via videoconferencing facilities;
- Increase from $70,000 to $85,000 the amount that can be claimed in proceedings before the Court of Québec, and adjust the amount periodically by the action of law.
All the provisions of the new Code are scheduled to come into force in the fall of 2015.
Background to the project to modernize the Code of Civil Procedure
The Code of Civil Procedure, as it existed prior to the reform, was enacted in 1965 and partially amended over time. In recent years, many different partners and specialists were consulted for the purposes of an in-depth revision designed to facilitate access to civil justice.
In September 2011, a draft bill was tabled at the National Assembly by the Minister of Justice at the time, Jean-Marc Fournier, and 49 briefs were submitted during the public consultation process held in January 2012.
On April 30, 2013, the Minister of Justice, Bertrand St-Arnaud, tabled a new bill. During the public consultations, 14 groups were heard and 21 briefs were submitted.
Detailed examination of the bill began before a parliamentary committee on October 8, 2013 and continued for 30 sittings totalling 106 hours of work. In all, 330 amendments and 5 sub-amendments were adopted. The amended bill was then passed on February 20, 2014.
Press release, February 20, 2014
Laws and Regulations of Québec