Civil and common law: what does the future hold for the trust?

Quebec is the ideal place to discuss the differences between civil and common law. Indeed, the type of law practiced in Quebec comes from a civilian tradition, i.e. it is the result of a synthesis of Roman law and continental European customs, and differs from the common law practiced throughout the Anglo-Saxon world, including Canada. 

The Centre de recherche en droit privé et comparé du Québec (Quebec Research Centre of Private and Comparative Law), directed by Lionel Smith from McGill University, is working on issues relating to the theme of the "new Quebec law". The hosting of an international bilingual conference entitled "The Worlds of the Trust/La fiducie dans tous ses États", held in September 2010 at McGill University, was at the heart of the Centre's event programming in 2010. 

Until recently, the trust was often described as foreign to the logic of the civilian tradition. This assertion is increasingly untenable, as the profile of the trust in legal systems with a civilian law of property continues to develop and expand. 

The conference sought to explore the multiple ways in which civilian and mixed legal systems have embraced the trust. Twenty papers were presented by an impressive group of jurists including academics, lawyers and a magistrate. Several prestigious universities were represented, including Oxford, Yale and Paris-II. The audience was composed of jurists from many countries including Quebec, France, the USA, Malta, Estonia and Japan. 

The conference took the innovative approach of combining speakers from civilian and mixed legal systems. Commentary on the papers was provided by commentators with expertise in the common law trust. This made it possible to highlight the original civil-law solutions and to counter the usual assumption that specialists in civil law have a lot to learn from those who practice common law, and not the other way around. 

The conference proceedings will soon be published.


Centre de recherche en droit privé et comparé du Québec


Lionel Smith, Université McGill

Regular members

  • Yaëll Emerich, Université McGill 
  • Daniel Jutras, Université McGill 
  • Nicholas Kasirer, Université McGill 
  • David Lametti, Université McGill 
  • Christine Morin, Université Laval 
  • Pierre Emmanuel Moyse, Université McGill