A court case has to begin somewhere, and that somewhere is called a "trial" court. But there's more than one trial court because different trial courts specialize in different types of cases. So it's important to know what each court does.
The Superior Court is what is called the "court of general jurisdiction" for Quebec. This means that, not only does it hear cases the law says it's responsible for, it also hears cases the law doesn't specifically assign to other courts. It's the "jack of all trades" of our legal system.
The Superior Court therefore makes decisions on a wide variety of cases, such as
- divorce and spousal support,
- lawsuits involving large amounts of money ($85,000 and over), and
- criminal cases for serious crimes like murder.
Court of Québec
The Court of Québec is made up of several "divisions" or sections. Each division handles specific types of cases.
Criminal and Penal Division
This division hears minor criminal cases that don't have to be decided by a Superior Court judge or by a jury.
Civil Division and Small Claims Division
The Civil Division hears most cases where the amount involved is less than $85,000.
The Small Claims Division handles cases involving $15,000 or less. The Small Claims Division is also called the "Small Claims Court."
The people who bring cases to this court are not represented by lawyers, and the judge questions the witnesses directly.
The Youth Division hears cases in which the person charged with the crime is a minor. It also decides youth protection and adoption cases.
Municipal courts can hear cases dealing with issues such as
- a disagreement between a resident and a municipality (for example, someone wants to challenge a tax bill), or
- a violation of the law that isn't a crime (for example, someone wants to challenge a ticket for not stopping at a red light).
Note that there is an exception: some municipal courts handle some adult criminal cases dealing with minor offences that carry light punishments. An example is stealing something worth less than $5,000 if this is the person's first offence.
Several other courts are responsible for making decisions in specific kinds of cases. Here are some examples:
- the Tribunal administratif du Québec (a tribunal is a kind of court) hears cases about issues such as health services, environmental protection and permits
- the Human Rights Tribunal hears cases about issues such as discrimination and harassment
- the Tax Court of Canada hears cases involving issues such as employment insurance, income tax and other types of federal taxes
Let's not forget the Federal Court, which hears cases on specific subjects that concern the federal government, including these subjects:
- intellectual property (copyright, trademarks, etc.)
- maritime transportation
- conflicts between provinces.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.