What Is the Queen's Counsel (QC)?

Parliament Building in Victoria, B.C., across the street from a handmade aboriginal totem pole with bears

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In Canada, the honorary title of Queen's Counsel, or QC, is used to recognize Canadian lawyers for exceptional merit and contribution to the legal profession. Queen's Counsel appointments are formally made by the provincial Lieutenant-Governor from members of the bar of the relevant province, on the recommendation of the provincial Attorney General.

Across the Provinces

The practice of making Queen's Counsel appointments is not consistent across Canada, and the eligibility criteria vary. Reforms have attempted to depoliticize the award, making it a recognition of merit and community service. Committees composed of representatives of the bench and the bar screen candidates and advise the relevant Attorney General on appointments.

Nationally, the Canadian government discontinued federal Queen's Counsel appointments in 1993, but resumed the practice in 2013. Quebec stopped making Queen's Counsel appointments in 1976, as did Ontario in 1985 and Manitoba in 2001.

QC in British Columbia

Queen's Counsel remains a position of honor in British Columbia. Under the Queen's Counsel Act, appointments are made annually by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Attorney General. Nominations are sent to the Attorney General from the judiciary, the Law Society of B.C., the B.C. Branch of the Canadian Bar Association, and the Trial Lawyers Association. Nominees must be members of the British Columbia bar for at least five years.

Applications are reviewed by the B.C. Queen's Counsel Advisory Committee. The committee includes the Chief Justices of British Columbia, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, two members of the Law Society appointed by the benchers, the President of the Canadian Bar Association, B.C. Branch, and the Deputy Attorney General.