Lawyers providing immigration assistance


A democratic society

Québec is a democracy, characterized by the separation of powers:

  • legislative power, exercised by representatives elected to adopt laws
  • executive power, exercised by the government to implement laws
  • judicial power, exercised by the courts to enforce laws, while maintaining a balance between each person's rights and obligations

Québec is a society based on the rule of law, which means that everyone has the same value and dignity as well as the same right to protection under the law. People in Québec must abide by all the laws, regardless of their convictions.The Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms prohibits discrimination or harassment based on race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age—except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language or ethnic origin.

Visit the website of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse for more information in this regard.

Women and men are equal. Women have the same rights and the same obligations as men, and they may practise the trade or occupation of their choice. Moreover, female workers must receive the same salary as male workers for the same job. Further information on equality between men and women may be found in the information guide entitled Equal in every way! Gender equality in Québec, produced by the Secrétariat à la condition féminine. The guide is available in English, French, Spanish, Creole, Arabic, Romanian, Portuguese, Chinese and Farsi.

Video bonus

For more information, free of charge, watch show #38 in the television series Le Droit de savoir, which deals with municipal powers.

The courts

In Québec, there are a number of types of courts of justice. All citizens (or new residents) have the right to be heard impartially by an independent court in order to settle a dispute or to be judged on an offence.

There are three major categories of courts in charge of administering justice: the judicial courts, the administrative tribunals (sometimes called "boards") and specialized tribunals. Who does what depends on the law and the following criteria: the nature of the case, the amount in dispute and the geographic location of the parties involved.

Judicial courts include municipal courts, the Court of Québec, the Superior Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. Here is a brief summary of each one's powers:

The municipal courts:

  • The municipal courts hear cases concerning violations of the municipal bylaws and certain Québec laws, such as the Highway Code, for example.
  • These courts handle claims regarding municipal taxes and permits as well as certain criminal affairs, such shoplifting or vandalism.

For more information (in French) on municipal powers in Québec, watch show #38 in Season 3 of Le Droit de savoir television series.

Court of Québec:

  • The scope of this court's jurisdiction is divided into three sectors called "chambres" in French: the "Chambre civile" (civil division), which includes the "Division des petites créances" (small claims division); the Chambre criminelle et pénale (the criminal and penal division) and the Chambre de la jeunesse (youth division).
  • The Chambre civile hears cases where the amount in dispute falls within the $15,000,01 - $84,999,99 range, and also serves as the court of appeal for decisions reached by certain administrative tribunals, including the Régie du logement (the rental board). If the claim amounts to S15,000 or less, it is the Division des petites créances (small claims division) that will handle the case.
  • As for the Chambre criminelle et pénale, it looks after all cases involving criminal matters, except for trials before a jury. This Court may therefore hear cases ranging from theft to assault and battery.
  • The Chambre de la jeunesse (youth division) hears all cases where a minor is involved, even in criminal matters, for all cases implicating 12-18-year-olds accused of violations of the Criminal Code. This youth division also handles cases concerning applications for adoption.

Superior Court:

  • This court looks after civil law cases in which the amount of money involved is $85,000 and over, as well as criminal law trials heard before a jury. In criminal matters, it is in fact the only court that can hear cases on criminal acts, such as murder or treason.
  • It hears cases of divorce, child custody and alimony.
  • It also hears bankruptcy and class actions.
  • It can issue injunctions to stop an activity.
  • It acts as a court of appeal (appeal is recourse whereby a party asks a court to review the decision of a lower court) for certain decisions reached by other courts (for example: an appeal regarding a decision of a Court of Québec judge, under the Criminal Code).

Court of Appeal:

  • The Court of Appeal is the highest court in Québec. Three judges hear the cases filed with this court. The Court of Appeal doesn't start the trial over again, but using the file and the lawyers' submissions, this court determines whether or not the judge who reached the decision made an error in that decision.
  • In civil matters, the Court of Appeal hears appeals that deal with Superior Court and Court of Québec decisions where the amount of money involved is $50,000 or over. In criminal matters, it hears appeals on guilty or acquittal verdicts as well as appeals on the penalty or punishment imposed (the "sentence").

Supreme Court:

  • The Supreme Court is the highest court in Canada. It has nine judges who are appointed by the government.
  • This Court rules itself on the cases that it hears (authorization must be obtained from the Court to initiate an appeal) and its decisions are final and binding (they can't be appealed).

More information on the various courses and the justice system in Québec may be found on the Éducaloi website.

Administrative tribunal and specialized tribunals

In Québec, there is also the Tribunal administratif du Québec (TAQ), which reviews—at residents' request—decisions that have been made by government departments or organizations, such as the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec or the Régie du logement.

Additional information may be found on TAQ's website.

And lastly, there are specialized tribunals, such as the Tribunal administratif du travail (which hears disputes over decisions reached by the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité au travail (CNESST) and then makes a ruling) as well as the Régie du logement (specializing in residential leases) and the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (in labour standards).
More information about these various specialized tribunals:

Legal aid

People with limited financial resources can obtain the services of a lawyer free of charge or at little cost. There are certain qualifying criteria for taking advantage of these services. The only place where you can check whether you are eligible for legal aid is at the bureau d’aide juridique (legal aid office) closest to your home.

There are legal aid offices in each region of Québec.

The legal services may be offered by lawyers who permanently work for legal aid services or by lawyers who work in a private practice, whatever you prefer.

More information on legal aid and the contact information of the office closest to your home may be found on the website of the Commission des services juridiques.

Legal fees insurance

A dispute with a retailer, a landlord or a neighbour. A hidden defect in your home. Unfair labour practices. A medical error. Probating a will. As a result of any of these unexpected situations beyond your control, you may need to hire a lawyer, mediator or arbitrator or even go to court.

The Barreau du Québec encourages you to buy legal fees insurance, as it is an excellent way of accessing a wide range of legal services in case you ever need them.

Regardless of your status
You can benefit from legal expense insurance for your personal needs or those of your family, if you are:

  • a tenant or landlord
  • an employee or self-employed
  • a small business owner

For individuals
Legal fees insurance covers lawyers' consultations and services. The insurance coverage may vary from one insurer to another and it is preferable to confirm with your insurer exactly what it covers, but it usually includes:

  • unlimited legal information and assistance by phone, covering most fields of law
  • in the event of a legal dispute: financial assistance to pay the fees charged by the lawyer of your choice, if you are taking the legal action or if you need to defend yourself when legal action is being taken against you. Also included are expenses (photocopies, travelling), expert advice and court costs (proceedings to be filed) in a number of fields of law (consumer matters, bodily injury or property damage, property and housing matters, income-related matters, work-related matters).
  • if there is no legal dispute: financial assistance for estate or personal protection cases, including assigning protective supervision for an individual of legal age who becomes inapt, probating a will, confirming a mandate in case of incapacity and liquidating an uncontested estate.

Only pennies a day
Personal or family legal fees insurance costs between $30 and $100 a year, depending on the insurer and the type of coverage selected.

Reasonable waiting periods
Legal fees insurance policies usually take effect 60 days after they are issued.

Voir la vidéo Cinq minutes pour comprendre l’assurance juridique.

Visit the legal fees insurance website for more information.

Community justice centres

The centres de justice de proximité (community justice centres) offer information, support and referral services in justice-related matters to residents in need. The centres de justice de proximité (there are seven in all: in Montréal, Québec City, Brossard, Saguenay, Chandler, Gatineau and Rimouski) are places where anyone can go, regardless of their income or the nature of their legal problem.

The services offered by these local justice centres include:

  • welcoming you to their offices to answer your questions of a legal nature and focusing on your needs
  • providing legal information to help you make well-informed decisions and better prepare you before you go to court
  • helping you find the appropriate form for your situation and explaining to you how to fill it out correctly
  • providing you with a computer and telephone on site, to facilitate your justice-related searches
  • making available to you a range of leaflets, brochures and information tools published by private, public and community organizations and concerning legal and judicial services
  • referring you to specialized resources, such as a government agency, a community organization or a non-profit organization, a legal professional or a mediation or arbitration centre that will be able to help you
  • offering you information sessions on topics of a legal nature or regarding justice matters that are of interest to the public.

Visit the website of the centres de justice de proximité for additional information.

The Québec Ombudsman

The role of the Québec Ombudsman is to prevent and correct any unfair or improper treatment of a person or group or persons by a Québec government department or agency or an institution within the health and social services network—including the health, education, labour and housing authorities with which you will be dealing in the coming months and years.

A section of the Public Protector's website is reserved for newcomers. You may also subscribe to the newsletter: The Québec Ombudsman: Information at Your Fingertips – A link between the Québec Ombudsman and the health and social services network.

Visit the website of the Québec Ombudsman for more information.

Video bonus

For more information, free of charge, watch show Le Droit de savoir on the role of the Québec Ombudsman (in French – Saison 3, Émission 27 – Chronique de la justice – Protecteur du citoyen).

© Barreau du Québec 2013-