A distinguished heritage marked by commitment to the public
In 2024, the Barreau du Québec will celebrate its 175th anniversary. Back on May 30, 1849, the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada enacted the Act to Incorporate the Bar of Lower Canada, thereby pioneering one of the earliest professional associations in the province.
The path forged since 1849 has left an enduring imprint on the Barreau du Québec. As the province of Quebec progressed, so did the Association, evolving in tandem with the province's changes. Today, women hold prominent positions and, each year, the continuous influx of new members from diverse backgrounds contributes to its ongoing transformation into a more representative institution that mirrors the modern reality of Quebec.
This year, 30,000 legal advisors are celebrating the achievements of a professional association that has unwaveringly upheld its core mission: protecting the public and making justice more accessible to all.
The Barreau du Québec’s historical milestones in brief
Across its extensive history, the Barreau has been a steadfast companion to the province throughout the significant transformations that have moulded it into the modern state we see today.
For further insights regarding the Barreau’s historical background, please refer to this page
Foundation of the Barreau du Québec
The Barreau stands as one of the province's most venerable professional associations, sharing this distinction with the Chambre des notaires and the Collège des médecins.
Coming into force of the Act respecting the Barreau du Québec
In the wake of the establishment of the law faculties at McGill and Laval universities, the Barreau gained the authority to determine through regulatory means the legal curriculum within these academic institutions.
The first women lawyers... at last!
After years of resistance, the Barreau declared its support to the admission of women to the legal profession. This pivotal resolution passed by a margin of only one vote, marking Quebec as the last Canadian province to embrace this change.
The subsequent year, Elizabeth C. Monk achieved the remarkable distinction of becoming the first woman admitted to the Barreau du Québec. In that same year, she was joined by Suzanne Raymond-Filion, Constance Garner-Short, and Marcelle Hémond, marking a significant milestone in the profession.
Creation of the École du Barreau
In the wake of a substantial revision of the Act respecting the Barreau du Québec, the Barreau focused on the process of centralizing the entire disciplinary procedure from the sections, establishing the Office of the Syndic. The following year witnessed the inauguration of its professional training school for lawyers.
The Barreau du Québec introduced its initial graphical symbol, which underwent a minor redesign in 1984 and a modernized update in 2005.
Beginnings of Legal Aid
The Barreau du Québec and Quebec’s Ministry of Justice entered into two agreements under which the Barreau provides legal assistance to individuals facing financial challenges. Support is offered without cost in civil matters and involves a modest contribution for criminal and penal matters. This arrangement marks the inception of Quebec’s legal aid system in 1972 and underscores the Barreau du Québec’s active commitment to ensuring access to justice for all.
The Professional Code
The Professional Code comes into effect, prompting necessary amendments to the Act respecting the Barreau du Québec to ensure alignment with the Code's provisions.
Establishment of the Barreau du Québec Foundation
Driven by a collective vision for the advancement of legal knowledge, a group of Barreau du Québec members joined forces to give life to the Barreau du Québec Foundation. Founded with a resolute commitment to support legal research, the Barreau du Québec Foundation has, since 1982, contributed over $3 million towards the publication of more than 135 books and 147 news articles.
Election of the first Bâtonnière
Me Sylviane Borenstein is elected as Quebec’s Bâtonnière, becoming the first woman in the history of the Quebec Bar to hold this position. She is now a retired judge of the Superior Court.
Éducaloi is launched
With the support of Canada’s Ministry of Justice and Quebec's Ministry of Jutisce, the Barreau du Québec launched Éducaloi, an independent non-profit organization committed to offer citizens access to quality legal information, free of charge and in plain language. Today, Éducaloi stands as a recognized authority in Quebec and beyond, excelling in legal communication and the promotion of legal literacy.
A revitalized governance
In December, further amendments were made to both the Act respecting the Barreau du Québec and the Professional Code. The Barreau's Board of Directors will henceforth be composed of 16 directors, 12 of whom holding elective positions. Québec’s Bâtonnier is elected through universal suffrage to serve a two-year mandate, with the option of a single renewal.
Additionally, in 2014, a significant turning point in the history of the Barreau du Québec was reached, as, for the first time, the number of female members exceeded that of their male counterparts. Women lawyers account for 50.4% of the total membership.
A new Bâtonnière
Me Catherine Claveau took office as the 155th Bâtonnière of Quebec and was re-elected for a second two-year mandate in 2023.
Click here to access a comprehensive list of all past bâtonniers of Québec.