Court of Appeal of Quebec

History

The Quebec Court of Appeal was created in 1849.

On May 30, 1849, during the reign of Queen Victoria (June 20, 1837 until January 22, 1901), royal assent was given to An Act to establish a Court having jurisdiction in Appeals and Criminal Matters for Lower-Canada.

The Court was then called the Court of Queen's Bench and consisted of four judges, including the Chief Justice.

Before 1840, appeals from judgments of the Court of Queen's Bench, which was then a trial court, were heard by the Governor and his Council.

As of 1840 and until the establishment of a true court of appeal in 1849, appeals were heard by a panel of three judges (including the Chief Justice) of the same court.

This judicial reorganization took place under the decisive influence, among others, of Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine (1807-1864), a lawyer and the Premier of the Province of Lower-Canada and United-Canada from 1842 to 1843 and from 1848 to 1851.

The Court of Appeal would be known for 125 years as the Court of Queen's Bench (or of King's Bench, according to the gender of the monarch who was the head of state of Canada). Indeed, it was not until 1974, with the adoption of the Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act and certain other legislative provisions relating to the administration of justice and to registry offices, S.Q. 1974, c. 11, that the Quebec Court of Appeal was given its current name.

Originally, the judges of the Court of Queen's Bench, in addition to being appellate judges, were vested with criminal jurisdiction at the trial level. This situation lasted 71 years, until the Superior Court was entrusted with this jurisdiction (An Act respecting the organization and competence of courts of civil jurisdiction, and the procedure in certain cases, S.Q. 1920 (10 Geo. V), c. 79, assented to on February 14, 1920.)

Subsection 92(14) of the Constitution Act, 1867 provides that the provinces have jurisdiction over “[t]he Administration of Justice in the Province, including the Constitution, Maintenance, and Organization of Provincial Courts, both of Civil and of Criminal Jurisdiction''. However, the federal government appoints judges of the superior courts (including judges of the Quebec Court of Appeal) and is responsible for their salaries, allowances and pensions (sections 96 and 100 of the Constitution Act, 1867).

The history of the Quebec Court of Appeal cannot be told without mentioning a few statistics about some of the judges who have served on it since 1849:

  •  Mr. Justice Antoine-Aimé Dorion served as Chief Justice for the longest period of time: exactly 17 years and 5 months, while the judge who held that position for the least period of time is Mr. Justice Louis-Amable Jetté: 1 year, 10 months and 25 days;

  • The oldest judge at the time of his appointment was Mr. Justice Pierre-A. Badeaux: 68 years, 9 months and 22 days; while the youngest  when named is Madam Justice Marie Deschamps: 39 years, 7 months and 4 days;

  • The oldest judge to sit on the Court was Mr. Justice Joseph-Léon Saint-Jacques: 83 years, 7 months and 16 days. He was compelled to retire on March 1, 1961 when an amendment to the Canadian constitution came into force imposing a 75 year age limit on federally appointed judges;

  • Mr. Justice Charles Paul Casey sat of the Court for the longest period of time: 32 years and 5 months, while Mr. Justice Charles D. Gonthier sat on the Court for the shortest period of time: 8 months and 7 days, until he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada on February 1, 1989.

Finally, we should note that in August of 2004, the Quebec Court of Appeal began to occupy its current location in Montreal at the Ernest-Cormier Building. The first hearing was held there on August 11, 2004 before a judge in chambers and a few days later, on August 16, 2004, before a panel of three judges.  

The Court has been at its current location in Quebec City since the opening of the Quebec Courthouse in 1983.