Bill 8: Justice 2.0


Table of Contents

by Nicholas Hébert-Gauthier, lawyer

With its introduction of new draft legislation aimed at improving the efficiency and accessibility of justice, the Quebec government is laying the groundwork for civil procedure reform.

Bill 8, entitled An Act to improve justice efficiency and accessibility, by promoting mediation and arbitration and by simplifying civil procedure in the Court of Québec[1], was introduced in the National Assembly by the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, and contains several major amendments.

Although further changes are obviously still possible, the following is a summary of the main changes that have been proposed.

Increasing the monetary jurisdiction of the Small Claims Division

Currently, the monetary limit for applications in the Small Claims Division of the Court of Quebec is $15,000. One of the first changes provided by the Bill is that the limit for recovery of small claims will increase on an annual basis.

The Bill provides that the monetary limit for small claims will be adjusted by $1,000 or more based on certain factors, including indexation.

Promoting out-of-court settlements

Through the Bill, Minister Jolin-Barrette’s goal is to prioritize dispute prevention and resolution processes. The Bill provides that cases that have been the subject of mediation or a pre-court protocol will be tried by preference, regardless of the value of the dispute.

Simplifying procedural steps

The Bill is also aimed at reducing the number and extent of procedural steps that must and may be undertaken by the parties to a dispute. For example, for applications in civil matters brought before the Court of Québec:

  • the limit below which holding an oral pre-trial examination is not permitted will be increased to $50,000. The current limit is $30,000;
  • the use of joint expert opinions will become the rule rather than the exception;
  • the use of joint expert opinions will become the rule rather than the exception;
  • the court clerk will be required to set cases down for trial and judgment; and
  • the number of pre-trail examinations will be limited to only one per party, unless otherwise authorized by the court.

In addition, for a case involving less than $100,000, the statements set out in the originating application may not exceed five pages, unless otherwise authorized by the court, and pre-trial written examinations may not exceed three pages.

The Bill provides for mandatory settlement conferences that must be held between 120 and 150 days after service of the Notice of Summons. At present, such conferences are held on a voluntary basis by the parties.

Last, the procedural rules applicable in the Court of Québec will also be simplified. Thus, the Bill provides that case protocols will no longer be required, a move that will effectively streamline case management procedures for all parties and their lawyers.

Jurisdiction of the Court of Québec

Acting on a majority decision issued by the Supreme Court of Canada[2], the Bill reduces the Court of Québec jurisdiction to applications in which the amount claimed or the value of the subject matter of a dispute is less than $75,000. The Court of Québec will have concurrent jurisdiction with the Superior Court where that amount or value is $75,000 or more but less than $100,000.

The Bill also provides for indexation of such amounts and contains transitional provisions applicable to cases already underway when the Bill comes into force.

Lastly, notaries will be eligible for appointment as judges.

In progress

It must be borne in mind that Bill 8 is only at the introduction stage and is not yet in force. It has several other mandatory steps that must be taken before it can be passed into law by the Québec National Assembly. The Bill could therefore be subject to various amendments in the weeks and months to come in light of the submissions made by MPs and experts in the field invited to comment on the draft legislation. It will be important for those who interact with the justice system to monitor the progress of this Bill, as it may significantly affect the way many of them practice.

Given the importance that the Minister of Justice places on methods of dispute prevention and resolution, Bélanger Sauvé wishes to point out that it will be fully prepared for enactment of the Bill as it can readily rely on the services of several accredited arbitrators and mediators.