Laws and Prosecutions in Criminal Matters in Canada: The Example of Quebec.

Author:Rouselle, Chloe

In Canada, as in other federations, there is a division of legislative powers between the principal orders of government. The federal Parliament holds the powers that relate to the areas of national interest, which are enumerated in the Constitution. (1) In terms of justice and public safety, they include national defence, penitentiaries (which are responsible for the custody of adult offenders serving imprisonment sentences of two years and more) and criminal law, including the related procedure. (2)

As regards the provinces, their exclusive powers concern matters of local or private nature. With reference to the subject at hand, it should be noted that they have jurisdiction over prisons (which are responsible for the custody of adult and juvenile offenders serving sentences of less than two years) and the administration of civil and criminal justice. (3)


As per the constitutional distribution of legislative powers, the federal Parliament adopts criminal laws, which are enforced across the country. In doing so, the federal Parliament determines the behaviours that constitute a criminal offence in Canadian law. The Criminal Code, (4) in particular, codifies most of the criminal offences such as impaired driving, fraud, assault, sexual assault, bribery, murder, etc. The federal Parliament also provides in its legislation provisions relating to police powers and judicial authorizations (e.g. arrest, search, seizure, etc.), procedures and evidence (e.g. appearance, mode of trial, motions, etc.) as well as sentences (e.g. objectives and principles, aggravating factors, maximum or minimum sentences, etc.). (5)


Given their legislative powers over the administration of justice, the provinces are responsible for the organization and maintenance of provincial courts, including those of criminal jurisdiction. The provinces also oversee the exercise of the power of their attorney generall, (6) whose authority as a prosecutor in criminal matters (and that of their lawful deputies) is recognized by the federal legislator in section 2 of the Criminal Code. (7)

In Quebec, the enabling Act of the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DCPP) provides that the latter is the office responsible for bringing, for the State, criminal prosecutions in the province. In exercising this role, the DCPP directs prosecutions under the Criminal Code, the

Youth Criminal Justice Act (8) and any other...

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