The DPJ and the Courts of Justice

We’ve all heard of the Youth Protection Directorate (DPJ). But what is its mandate and what is the role of the courts when the DPJ have introduced procedures for a child?

First of all, the DPJ is responsible for the implementation of the Youth Protection Act. Under article 2 of that Act, the following Act applies “to a child whose security or development is or may be considered to be in danger”.

Thus, it is the Youth Protection Directorate and his team of stakeholders, which are responsible for receiving reports that have to determine whether a report must be accepted or not and, if there’s a necessity to assess the situation of a child. The Youth Protection Directorate intervenes with the parents and the children who live in a situation in which their security and development might be at risk. Therefore, an intervention by the DPJ is deemed necessary in respect with article 2.2 of the Youth Protection Act which states that the primary responsibility for the care, maintenance and education of a child and for ensuring his supervision rests with his parents”.

The DPJ will intervene in order to establish the necessary methods to correct and/or revise the situation of compromise in which the child lives and to prevent its recurrence. The DPJ will act at all times in the child’s interest, with respect of the child’s rights and “must, if the circumstances are appropriate, favour the means that allow the child and the child’s parents to take an active part in making decisions and choosing measures that concern them” (article 2.3 b) of the Youth Protection Act).

In Québec, the competent court to hear the youth protection cases is the Court of Québec. When the Court of Québec has to make a decision concerning a child, namely which person including a child should be entrusted, it has to do so according to Article 4 of the Youth Protection Act which states that “every decision made under this Act must aim at keeping the child in the family environment”. However, if the child interests are not met by keeping him or her in the family environment, the court decision should aim to ensure the continuity and the stability of the child’s care that must resemble to a family environment, or granting the child’s care to the grandparents or other family members, to the extent that it’s feasible and appropriate.

Regarding child custody issues, the New Code of Civil Procedure, which shall enter into force on 1 January 2016, provides in Article 37 that “if a youth protection matter is already before the Court of Québec, it may rule on any related application concerning child custody, emancipation, the exercise of parental authority or tutorship requested by the director of youth protection”.

It should be noted that the Youth Division of the Court of Québec has precedence over the family matters room of the Superior Court when proceedings are pending involving the DPJ. This approach avoids that two different judgments concerning the child’s custody are rendered.

Note that although the Court of Québec may rule on the issue of custody, it shall not have jurisdiction to deal with the issue regarding child support payable for the benefit of the child. The person concerned should seize the Superior Court on that matter.

Text written by Me Virginie Damien / Translated by Andrey Leshyner