You may, without even realizing it, be part of a class action and be entitled to compensation. For example, someone may have filed a suit against an enterprise or government on behalf of all the individuals in the same situation or class, and this may include you. However, you must meet certain conditions.

Until a judgment has been rendered, you do not need to do anything. The person who filed the class action, the applicant, is your representative.

What is a class action?

A class action is a way to ask the court to repair the harm caused to many different people. The person who files the class action must be part of the class, and is called the representative, even if the person has not received a mandate from the other members of the class.

A class action, also known as a class action suit, differs from other legal proceedings. One of its objectives is to facilitate access to justice for members of the general public, by re-establishing a balance between the parties.

Unlike other legal proceedings, it must first be authorized by the court, in a judgment authorizing the class action. This launches the proceeding which may lead to a trial, after 2 or 3 years or even longer, because class actions often involve complex litigation.

Class actions can be launched at the provincial, national or international level.

In addition, a class action can be pursued in Québec at the same time as another class action, based on the same grounds, outside Québec. For example, a representative may file a class action in Québec even if another class action is under way in the United States for the same problem, against the same enterprise or government (the defendant). This is known as a “multi-jurisdictional class action”.


Compared to normal court proceedings, a class action offers several advantages:

  1. it is a simple and effective way to defend your rights as a citizen;
  2. it makes justice more accessible, by eliminating various obstacles such as economic or psychological barriers (anxiety, etc.);
  3. it gives your case more weight, by grouping together all the people in the same situation;
  4. it encourages better corporate behaviour, in particular through compliance with the standards and regulations in force.

In addition, for you a class action is free of charge. You have nothing to pay to participate, or to receive compensation. You are also not required to pay the defendant’s costs if the judge dismisses your case. However, some of your compensation may be used to pay for your group’s lawyer.

A class action gives you some indirect advantages:

  • it encourages the defendant to pay attention even to minor incidents;
  • it requires the defendant to treat all the members of your class fairly.

You can discover if you are a member of a class involved in a class action by checking to see whether your situation matches the description of the group for a given class action. For this purpose, you can consult:

  • the class action registry of the Superior Court of Québec, which contains all class actions filed in Québec since January 1, 2009;
  • the Class Action Database of the Canadian Bar Association, which gives access to a non-exhaustive list of class actions filed in Canada since January 1, 2007.

You can also consult the court ledger, which is the court’s public register.

A class action follows a different path from a regular court proceeding.

As a “member of the group”, you generally have nothing to do prior to the judgment, except if you want to opt out of the class.

However, you must respect certain obligations.

Important note
Please note that this section explains the main features of a class action in Québec. The legal rules are more complex, and contain various exceptions and nuances.

Application for authorization

Before filing a class action, the representative’s lawyer must obtain authorization from the court. For this purpose, the lawyer must submit an application for authorization to the court office that

  • specifies the facts supporting the class action;
  • shows that the cause is serious;
  • describes the class that will be entitled to compensation, if applicable;
  • establishes that a large number of people are facing the same problem.

First, the court analyzes if the class action should be authorized. More specifically, it

  • verifies if more than one class action has been filed for the alleged problem;
  • establishes if the facts alleged appear to justify the conclusions sought;
  • determines if the class action is an effective way to obtain the compensation sought for the group;
  • assesses if the representative is able to perform his or her role.

The court may authorize or deny the class action. If the court authorizes the class action, it will render a judgment authorizing the class action and

  • describing the class concerned;
  • giving the name of the representative;
  • identifying the main issues.

The judgment may be appealed to the Québec Court of Appeal, and then to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Notice to members
Once the judgment authorizing the class action has been rendered, a notice to class members is published in the registry of class actions, in newspapers or on certain websites.

The notice must inform the members, in particular, about

  • who is being sued and for what problem;
  • who is a member of the class;
  • who is the representative;
  • what the contact information is for the group’s lawyer;
  • what conclusion is sought by the class action (such as compensation or repayment).

The notice to members also states how to opt out of the class.

Filing of the Class Action
The class’s lawyer must file the class action within 3 months after the judgment authorizing the class action.


At this point, a class action and a regular proceeding follow a similar path. The same rules apply with respect to the submission of evidence, the hearing and the judgment.

At any time, a settlement may bring the trial to an end. However, it must be approved by the court, and a notice to the class members must be sent out before the hearing to approve the settlement.

After the trial, the judge makes a judgment on the merits of the case.

If the judgment grants the representative’s application, it describes the class entitled to receive compensation or repayment, or the changes that the defendant must make to the practices found to be illegal. The description of the class may, for example, take the form “All persons who, between January 1, 2015 and July 1, 2015, purchased a defective ABC brand computer for which the ZYX company refused to provide a repayment.”

The judgment applies to any person who matches the description and did not opt out of the group within the prescribed time.

The judgment may be appealed to the Québec Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.


After judgment is rendered, the judge orders a new notice to be published and sent to the class members. In the notice, as a class member, you will be informed:

  • of the amount you are awarded or the steps you must take to have the amount fixed;
  • of the steps you must take to claim the amount;
  • of the time limit for filing your claim and any supporting documents required.

During the class action, the description of the class may have changed. Before filing your claim, you should check again if you are still concerned by the class action.

Remaining balance

If a balance remains after all the class members have been suitably compensated, the court may either

  • order a second distribution to the class members, who each receive additional compensation;
  • or remit the remaining balance to a non-profit organization which, in most cases, has a connection with the problem targeted by the class action, such as a hospital if the class action concerned healthcare.

Your representative is more than just your spokesperson. He or she is the official plaintiff in your class action and is therefore named in all the pleadings for the class action. In addition, the representative must

  • contact a lawyer to file the initial judicial application;
  • work with the lawyer to gather the documents and information needed to continue with the proceeding;
  • remain in contact with the lawyer who filed the application to receive news about the progress of the class action;
  • participate in each stage in the class action, in particular during the trial;
  • ensure that the class action is taken to its conclusion in the form of a judgment or settlement.

The representative must also ensure that the interests of the class members are protected.

It is important to note that your representative must have been designated by the court. Before authorizing a class action, the court must assess whether, on the basis of the criteria established by law, your representative is fit to represent you.

As a “class member” in a class action, you have both rights and obligations.


You have an obligation to act within the time limit either to

As a result, you must remain informed about the progress of the class action. You will therefore know if

  • the class action is authorized;
  • an out-of-court settlement has been negotiated;
  • a judgment has been rendered;
  • the description of the class has changed and, if so, whether you are still entitled to receive compensation;
  • the deadline for opting out of the class or filing a claim.

For this purpose you must read the notices to class members, for example in the registry of class actions. You can also contact the lawyer for the class, or the lawyer’s website. The lawyer’s contact information is contained

  • in each notice to class members;
  • in the overview of the class action application published in the registry of class actions or the Class Action Database.

Please note that the mission of the Class Action Assistance Fund does not include providing you with information on a class action that concerns you.

How to become a class member
If you are interested in a class action, you should check the description of the class. If you match this description, you are automatically a member of the class. This does not mean that you need to register or pay a fee to obtain your compensation or repayment.

However, if the court amends the description in its judgment, you may be excluded from the class if you no longer match the description.

As a “class member” in a class action, you have no fees or costs to pay, since they are all paid by your representative. However, the representative can apply to the Class Action Assistance Fund for assistance in paying some of the fees and costs.

If the court dismisses the class action, you will not have to pay anything to the defendant.


A long time can elapse between the authorization of a class action and the final judgment, in some cases extending to a period of many years. The timeframe depends on a series of factors, including

  • the involvement of different jurisdictions, for example in the case of a multi-juridictional class action;
  • the complexity of the case or the issues raised;
  • the nature and number of the parties;
  • the number of judicial proceedings.

The timeframe also depends on the judicial pathway for the class action. It must first be authorized, which may take several months or even years.

In addition, every case is unique. Although two cases may appear similar at first sight, they may lead to different outcomes.

Do you have an idea for a Class Action?
Suggest your proposed recourse!
We are here for you.