Shortly after the founding of the Canadian confederation, it became necessary for the gouvernement du Québec to develop a vehicle to inform the public of its decisions and directions. Thus, in 1868, the Québec legislature adopted the act respecting the office of Queen’s Printer for this Province, and the publishing of the “Quebec Official Gazette” (31 Victoria - 1868, Cap. XIII).
The Act, which came into force on January 12, 1869, clearly stated in its section 2 the role of the new institution:
"It shall be the duty of the queen's printer to print and publish, or cause to be printed and published, for the government, the statutes of the province, an official gazette, which shall be known as the "Quebec Official Gazette," and such documents and announcements as the lieutenant-governor may from time to time require to have printed, whether in the said official gazette or otherwise."
Section 9 dealt with the authentic nature of the Queen’s Printer’s publications:
“All publications in the "Quebec Official Gazette," and all copies of the statutes of this province printed or caused to be printed [...] by the said queen's printer, shall be authentic and make proof of their contents without any other evidence[...]."
Making official information available to the public. This founding mission has always been the focus of the Queen’s Printer’s activities over the decades, although new responsibilities have gradually been grafted to it. In 1964, nearly a century after its founding, the Queen’s Printer developed solid expertise in publishing, from which the departments benefited with their publication needs. At that time, the Queen’s Printer was also in charge of distributing a number of government publications, including, for example:
The Queen’s Printer then became much more a “publisher” than a “printer”, so the designation “Queen’s Printer” was dropped on January 1, 1969 and replaced by “Éditeur officiel du Québec” (Québec Official Publisher).
The raison d'être of the Québec Official Publisher has always been to make official information readily accessible. And since that information is authentic in nature, it is crucial for its integrity to be ensured. The two features of official information—accessibility and integrity—are essential components to the population’s democratic life and the functioning of the rule of law.
Since its very beginning, the Québec Official Publisher has taken the necessary steps for the concepts of accessibility and integrity to be achieved in all its actions. Whether it concerns page layout, printing, distribution, subscription management or customer service, everything is aimed at serving the public and the public’s fundamental right to accessible and authentic government information.
To achieve this, advances in technology must be fully utilized. As in numerous fields, advances in computer and information technology made it possible for the Québec Official Publisher to revolutionize its tools and work process, as well as the way it disseminates official information. Now, anyone can easily consult the Civil Code of Québec from LégisQuébec on the screen of a mobile device, in HTML, PDF or EPUB format. Here are a few other milestones:
The Québec Official Publisher now carries out its activities under the Act respecting the Centre de services partagés du Québec (CQLR, chapter C-8.1.1), and more particularly under the name “Les Publications du Québec”, as the gouvernement du Québec’s publishing house.
Under section 41 of the Act, the Official Publisher “publishes or commissions the publishing of
(1) the statutes of Québec;
(2) an official journal, known as the Gazette officielle du Québec; and
(3) the documents, notices and announcements that the Government, the Office of the National Assembly or an Act require the Official Publisher to publish.”
Another mandate that is central to the mission of the Québec Official Publisher is described in the Act respecting the Compilation of Québec Laws and Regulations (CQLR, chapter R-184.108.40.206.2) and consists in the publication and dissemination of the Compilation. Concretely, it is the grouping of Québec statutes and regulations selected and updated by the Minister of Justice on the basis of their general and permanent nature. The texts that are part of the Compilation are “consolidated” statutes and regulations and are referred to as such in LégisQuébec.
Lastly, under the Act respecting the National Assembly, the Québec Official Publisher is responsible for the publication and distribution of the National Assembly’s legislative documents:
The Québec Official Publisher will celebrate its 150th anniversary in January 2019. The thousands of pages of statutes, regulations, orders in council, ministerial orders, policies, programs and notices of constitution, of dissolution or of changes of names published during those years are all time capsules making it possible to unearth a good part of Québec’s historic fabric.
If he were here, Charles-François Langlois, the first Queen’s Printer, would probably be surprised and amazed by the technological advances made since 1869. He would certainly feel that the current techniques and processes have very little in common with those of the late 19th century.
However, he would very quickly notice that some things have remained unchanged: rigour, passion and the desire to serve the public are values that still drive those working for the institution of which he was in charge for nearly 30 years. These are the values that allowed the Québec Official Publisher to stand the test of time and that will enable it to address the many challenges that lie ahead.
No one can predict exactly the future development of technologies that the public will use to consult official information. However, it may be assumed that the public will require, and rightly so, increasingly accessible information whose integrity is beyond question. With LégisQuébec, the Québec Official Publisher certainly meets that requirement. This development must not be seen as an end in itself, but as a step in a long process aimed at ensuring the broadest possible access to official information, while ensuring its integrity. That is the fundamental objective the Québec Official Publisher intends to continue striving for in the future.