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On February 1st, the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, presented to the National Assembly Bill 8 entitled an Act to improve justice efficiency and accessibility, in particular by promoting mediation and arbitration and by simplifying civil procedure in the Court of Québec (“Bill 8”). This insight discusses the various effects of this Bill, if passed, which will introduce significant changes to the civil procedure as we know it.
On February 1st, the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, presented to the National Assembly Bill 8 entitled an Act to improve justice efficiency and accessibility, in particular by promoting mediation and arbitration and by simplifying civil procedure in the Court of Québec (“Bill 8”). The effect of this Bill, if passed, will be to introduce significant changes to the civil procedure as we know it.
At the time of the 2016 Code of Civil Procedure reform, Justice Minister Bernard St-Arnaud classified the reform as “[a] shift that will make our justice system much more accessible, faster, less cumbersome, less costly while using new ways of doing business.”
This new reform is in line with the same objective as the 2016 reform. Justice Minister Jolin‑Barrette explains that “Quebecers are entitled to efficient, accessible, faster and less expensive justice services. That is the objective of this bill”.
The primary objective of this bill appears to be the improvement of the efficiency and accessibility of justice in Québec. Many of the changes will likely reduce delays for litigants to be heard. However, some of the changes may not be as well received by Québec jurists.
Bill 8 provides that any file accompanied by a certificate from an accredited mediator confirming that the parties have used a private dispute prevention and resolution process will be given priority. However, Bill 8 is silent on what this “priority” means and how it will be applied. It should be noted that this change applies to both the Court of Québec and the Superior Court.
Procedural Changes in the Small Claims Division
One of the important changes brought about by Bill 8 is the increase in the monetary limit of cases that can be heard before the Small Claims Division of the Court of Québec. Thus, the monetary limit of this division, currently set at $15,000, will be subject to an indexation of at least $1,000 per year according to certain parameters determined by regulation.
While the cost of living and the consumer price index were increasing, the monetary ceiling of the small claims division remained at the same level since January 2015. This is a particularly welcome change for many litigants.
Furthermore, while a mediation process is currently provided for in article 556 of the Code of Civil Procedure for small claims cases, this article would be amended to add an arbitration process, at no additional cost, in the event of disagreement between the parties during a mediation.
Finally, the adoption of Bill 8 would allow the Tribunal, with the parties’ consent, to render judgment on the basis of the record in the case of a recovery of up to $3,000. The Tribunal may also decide preliminary issues on the basis of the record, after obtaining written submissions from the parties unless it finds it necessary to hear the parties.
Competency of the Court of Québec
According to the legal opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada issued on June 30, 2021, Bill 8 will reduce the ceiling on the value in dispute for cases brought before the Court of Québec to $75,000, subject to annual indexation. Currently, this ceiling is set at $85,000 and gives exclusive jurisdiction to the Court of Québec for all cases below this amount. The effect of Bill 8 will therefore be to create concurrent jurisdiction between the Court of Québec and the Superior Court, at the option of the plaintiff, when the amount in dispute is between $75,000 and $100,000.
Simplification of Procedures
One of the key aspects of this bill is the simplification of the procedure before the Court of Québec. In doing so, a new title will be added to the Code of Civil Procedure entitled: “Special simplified rules for the recovery of certain claims.” It should be noted that this section will only apply to claims brought in the Court of Québec where the value of the subject matter is less than $100,000. In essence, the concurrent jurisdiction newly created by Bill 8 appears to allow the plaintiff to choose between the simplified procedure of the Court of Québec and the Superior Court where the value in dispute is between $75,000 and $100,000.
The amendments provide, among other things, for the disappearance of the case protocol, the imposition of a five-page limit for the Statement of Claim, and two pages for the summary statement of defence, increased to seven if the defendant makes a cross-application. Specific time limits will be imposed for the denunciation of preliminary arguments, the filing of the summary statement and the communication of exhibits. In addition, the registration for trial and judgment will now be made by the clerk no later than six months after the service of the notice of summons.
The threshold for oral examinations for discovery is to be raised to $50,000, this threshold being currently set at $30,000 and only one examination per party will be permitted.
In addition, Bill 8 provides that the origin of a piece of evidence and the integrity of the information it contains will now be presumed to be recognized, unless one of the parties objects.
Finally, in accordance with the growing desire of judges, joint expertise will become the norm in cases where the value in dispute is less than $50,000, unless there is a court order to allow the filing of multiple experts.
A significant increase in the number of judges appears essential to address both the changes brought about by Bill 8 and the current shortage. Bill 8 therefore also amends the Courts of Justice Act to allow judges to be “appointed from among lawyers or notaries having at least ten years’ practice.”
Finally, Bill 8 makes a specific provision for cases under $85,000 to continue before the Court of Québec, where the cases were initiated before the date Bill 8 comes into force. In other words, the current rules of procedure will continue to apply to these cases.
Bill 8 is at the introduction stage and is therefore not yet in force. In fact, several subsequent steps will have to be taken before it can be adopted by the Québec National Assembly.
 Conférence de presse de M. Bertrand St-Arnaud, ministre de la Justice : « Le point sur le projet de loi instituant le nouveau Code de procédure civile », 30 avril 2013 (French only).
 Communiqué de presse, Cabinet du ministre de la Justice et procureur général du Québec : « Pour une justice moins coûteuse, plus efficace et plus humaine », 1er février 2023 (French only).
 Bill 8, art. 2 and art. 7 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 9 and art. 539.1 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 13 and art. 556 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 14 and art. 561.1 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 7 and art. 539.2 C.c.p.
 Reference re Code of Civil Procedure (Que.), art. 35, 2021 SCC 27.
 Bill 8, art. 3 and art. 35 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 7 and art. 535.2 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 7 and art. 535.3 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 7 and art. 535.6 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 7 and arts. 535.4 to 535.6 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 7 and art. 535.13 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 6 and art. 229 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 7 and art. 535.9 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 7 and art. 535.10 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, art. 7 and art. 535.15 C.c.p.
 Bill 8, arts. 30. 32 and 34 and arts. 87, 162 and 248 of the Courts of Justice Act.
 Bill 8, art. 39.