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Quebec - A World Apart

The differences between Quebec and the rest of North America often seem vast. From the language politics to the separatist rhetoric we are constantly reminded that this place is “different”.

These differences run deep and the differences go back to the beginnings of Canada. One difference that investigators of all sorts encounter is the Civil Code.

The Civil Code is a legislative enactment of Quebec’s private law (civil law). Typically this is found in countries that can trace their legal systems back to Roman law. In the US Louisiana is the only Civil Code jurisdiction. Both Quebec and Louisiana were once French colonies. In Canada only Quebec has a Civil Code.

Intended to be a comprehensive and easily understood statement of Quebec’s private law it was first enacted as the Civil Code of Lower Canada in 1866, one year before Confederation.

Over the years legislation affecting private law was enacted outside the Civil Code. This creates an undesirable situation in any Civil Code jurisdiction as it is confusing for the profession, public and jurists alike.

The attempts to revise the Civil Code in the last century began in 1955. In 1964 the most urgent changes were made and in 1981 a new Civil Code was promulgated but only the portions relating to family law were enacted. This new Civil Code was to entirely replace the Code of 1866 and along with the legislation that encroached on it.

In 1991 yet another new Code was promulgated to be enacted in 1994. This new Civil Code finally replaced the Civil Code of 1866. It contains ten books, persons, family & successions, property, obligations, prior claims, hypothecs, evidence, prescription, publication of rights, and private international law.

The first problem investigators from outside Quebec must be prepared for, apart from the French language, is the differences in terminology and references to the Civil Code in court documents. Often the investigator will require a lawyer from Quebec to interpret the pleadings.

The second problem is understanding how to search Quebec’s court records. This process is also different from the rest of North America.

Quebec possess an excellent mechanism for searching for actions involving a particular party. In our opinion it is the best in North America.

One can search the civil action indexes using the same system employed by the courts. This system is called Société québécoise d’information juridique (SOQUIJ).

The system allows files to be located at any courthouse in Quebec. The case may be located by file number or by any party name.

When searching by party name you will receive the names and addresses of every person involved in the case, as well as the names and addresses of the attorneys of record. This will also include all criminal and penal cases.

One may also search for parallel files and obtain a list of file numbers related to a particular criminal or penal case.

This makes Quebec the only jurisdiction in Canada where one may search for criminal prosecutions by accused name.

However, one must use this system carefully because it is easy to miss entries. One must not go on fishing expeditions without understanding certain limitations.

Do not search by name only at any courthouse. The courthouse staff will require a date of birth or address to narrow the search. Of course this will not identify all actions if the person as moved or if the date of birth is not provided in the record. Without an address you may not find any actions. Even if you have an address you may be told none exist because the subject has changed residences.

We have ceased conducting any such searches at the courthouses and now have an expert searcher for SOQUIJ to complement our document retrieval capabilities. This will ensure that you get a list of all the actions involving any person with the subject’s name.


In the province of Quebec they record all civil and criminal actions in one system province-wide.

Corporate Search

Corporation or business name / partnership search in Quebec. Turnaround time is usually 2 - 4 business days.


These reports include any liens against an individual or company involving personal property or assets used as security for a loan or lease on a vehicle. Turnaround time usually 2 business days.

Real Property

Please note that the Quebec privacy legislation does not permit searching by owner name, we must have a property address or legal description.

A sub search does not provide enough information to determine the quality of the title.

Revised: 6 Mar 08

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