With its fifteen courts spread across Quebec, administrative justice is truly positioned as the gateway for citizens to a justice system dedicated to settling disputes, particularly with the State. It is based on the principle that the action of the State, in all its forms, is legal and that the citizen, who considers himself aggrieved, can take advantage of effective remedies.
Today, May 9, 2022, marks the 10th anniversary of the National Day of Administrative Justice. For us, this is the perfect opportunity to emphasize the importance of administrative justice to the public, the role of administrative tribunals and their specificity.
Presence in all spheres of life
Although less known, administrative justice in Quebec is intended as a tool in the spheres of everyday life. Citizens of Quebec can thus be called upon to have recourse to an administrative tribunal if they suffer, for example, a road accident or an accident at work or if they have a dispute with the owner of their dwelling.
A necessary citizen service
In fact, some 400 administrative judges in some fifteen administrative tribunals in Quebec hear and settle approximately 140,000 cases relating to labor relations, health and safety, housing, transportation, electricity rates, securities securities, liquor permits or lottery games, taxes, protection of agricultural land, labor disputes and even contested applications for parole for inmates under provincial jurisdiction.
A citizen can always count on administrative justice to obtain access to information held by a public body or to denounce the behavior or practices of an elected municipal official, a construction contractor or a police officer.
Administrative justice is therefore a real gateway to our justice system.
Simple and accessible, for all
Most people don’t know this, but administrative tribunals are not bound by the same rules of procedure as civil courts. They are like courts of law, although they are not part of the legal system.
This allows them to manage files with flexibility and speed, often at a lower cost. The various administrative tribunals have in fact adopted simple rules to allow a citizen to present his request or request.
Citizens appearing before an administrative tribunal can expect their hearing to be conducted in simple and clear language, far from legalism or formalism.
The citizen does not need to be represented by a lawyer before an administrative tribunal. In all circumstances, the administrative judge must provide each party with fair and impartial assistance.
Since administrative tribunals are specialized, administrative judges have every advantage in possessing specific skills and experience related to the tribunal in which they sit. This is why only half of the administrative judges are lawyers. Others include notaries, psychologists, doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, chartered appraisers, veterinarians, engineers, accountants or economists.
For obvious reasons, it is interesting that the administrative judges are chosen according in particular to their expertise in the field of specialization of the administrative tribunal for which they sit. The administrative courts have clear recruitment procedures for administrative judges, based on objective criteria, which avoid any partisan influence in their selection.
In short, if administrative tribunals did not exist, monitoring and enforcement of government policies and laws would be virtually impossible. Administrative tribunals have an essential role and a unique status in the justice system in Quebec.
This is why, more than ever, it is important to underline the remarkable work that the administrative tribunals do for the citizens of Quebec by offering a quality, adapted and equitable justice service.
Daniel Pelletier, president of the Conference of Administrative Judges of Quebec and administrative judge at the Administrative Labor Tribunal, and France Boucher, president of the Regroupement des presidents des tribunals administratifs du Québec and president of the Commission des transports du Québec