The Beauty of Quebec City Courts
Back in 2017 I had the good fortune to be involved in a case with a Quebec dimension. As I can read and understand French (and still take regular French lessons in Toronto), and since I went to law school in Quebec, a client, who was a Toronto resident, came to me after being served in Toronto with a statement of claim (a “motion to institute proceedings” as it is called in la belle province) which had been issued in Quebec City. I immediately referred this person to a lawyer in Quebec City. Many months later I was able to attend a hearing in the case in the Court of Quebec (from the audience section as an observer and not as a participant or advocate) as there was an Ontario component that made my presence helpful to Quebec counsel.
Quebec City is absolutely beautiful. I know this first hand as I had the good fortune to work there over two months in the summer of 2007 and I would say that it is my favorite city in Canada to visit. There are a lot of wonderful places to jog and several sites to see, and the local baseball team, Les Capitales, is an excellent team to watch during the summer. The local fans love their team. Sitting in the stands at one of the home games one can catch an excellent view of the skyline of Quebec City. Not to mention the fact that the stadium looks straight out of the 1950’s. A truly authentic baseball stadium in the CanAm League. But I digress…
Quebec City is also the home to one of Canada’s greatest law schools: Laval University.
In any event, during my trip to the Quebec City courts I enjoyed the French immersion. Even in the downstairs cafeteria it was all French while ordering breakfast. It was all French while speaking with the Quebec City lawyers for my Ontario client with a Quebec City problem. It was all French during the hearing. Albeit, during the hearing, the English language was occasionally thrown in when counsel was referring to a case from a common law jurisdiction and some portions of one affidavit were in English (if memory serves me correctly). The interesting thing is that one need not file any specific document to speak in French or English in advance of a hearing. Under section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, a party, witness, or person can use either language in any federal or Quebec court at any time. Judgments can be rendered in either French or English in Quebec courts, but naturally, they are almost always rendered in French and the overwhelming majority of cases proceed in French in Quebec City.
The Court of Quebec hears civil disputes of relatively modest amounts. These amounts roughly correlate to the simplified procedure amounts in Ontario civil disputes. However, the Small Claims Court system, I learned that day, is quite different. There are no appeals of Small Claims judgments in Quebec---which is unlike Ontario where appeals are as of right to the Divisional Court (over $3,000). There may well be something to be said for not allowing appeals of Small Claims judgments, but I digress.
The Court of Quebec in Quebec City is housed in a beautiful courthouse in the Old Port. Also contained within the building is the Superior Court and the Quebec City wing of the Court of Appeal (the Court of Appeal also sits in Montreal’s Old Port). I would highly recommend that if anyone from Toronto visits Quebec City they should see first-hand Quebec lawyers and Judges in action over at the courthouse on Jean-Lesage Boulevard. There are three levels of court to choose from as an observer. It is also a great way to improve your French and to get a chance afterward to tour the Old Port.