On May 30, 1849, during the reign of Queen Victoria, royal assent was given to An Act to establish a Court having jurisdiction in Appeals and Criminal Matters for Lower Canada, thus establishing an appellate court for what would become the province of Quebec. Before 1840, appeals from judgments of the Court of Queen's Bench, then a trial court, were heard by the Governor and his Council.
For 125 years, this appellate court would be known as the Court of Queen's Bench (or King's Bench, according to the gender of the monarch then serving as Canada's head of state). 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 Court of Appeal of Quebec was given its current name.
The Court of Queen's Bench consisted of four judges, including the Chief Justice. In addition to being appellate justices, the judges of the Court of Queen's Bench were also vested with jurisdiction over criminal trials. This situation lasted until such matters were entrusted to the Superior Court by virtue of the Act respecting the organization and competence of courts of civil jurisdiction, and the procedure in certain cases, S.Q. 1920, c. 79.
The Court of Appeal of Quebec has been at its current location in Quebec City since the opening of the Quebec Courthouse in 1983. The Court began occpuying the Ernest Cormier Building in Montreal in August of 2004. The first hearing before a judge in chambers was held there on August 11, 2004. The first hearing before a panel of three judges was held a few days later, on August 16, 2004.
Section 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 the judges of the Court of Appeal of Quebec and is responsible for their salaries, allowances and pensions (ss. 96 and 100 of the Constitution Act, 1867).
The history of the Court cannot be told without mentioning a few notable statistics about some of the judges who have served on the Court: