Jacques Delisle has been a supernumerary judge since May 2000. ((Court of Appeal of Quebec))

A former Quebec Court of Appeal judge has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of his wife.

Jacques Delisle, 75, was arrested at his home Tuesday morning and made a brief appearance at the Quebec City courthouse.

This is the first time a Canadian judge has been charged with such a serious crime, said Martine Bérubé, a spokesperson for Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions.

Marie-Nicole Rainville, 71, died in Quebec City on Nov. 12, 2009. Police had initially believed the death was a suicide.

Rainville had suffered a stroke a few months prior to her death, sources close to the family confirmed to CBC News.

Criminal lawyer Rénald Beaudry said he was shocked to hear about the charges against a man he had often argued cases before.

Because Rainville was ill, many people may want to believe her death was an act of compassion, but the details of the case are not clear, said Beaudry.

Delisle also faces a charge of illegal possession of a weapon.

Bérubé would not confirm whether a weapon was used in connection with the death, but said that the alleged offences are said to have been committed on the same day.

The delay in the arrest can be explained by the technical nature of the evidence in the case, she said.

Officials also took the step of holding a pre-inquiry in the case, the day before Delisle was arrested.

"It is a procedure that is part of the Criminal Code that is used sometimes to have the opportunity to hear and examine the proof in front of the judge to see if the allegations … are strong enough to have the accusations laid," said Bérubé.

Delisle was represented by lawyer Jacques Larochelle at the hearing on Tuesday.

He will remain behind bars until his next court appearance on Monday.

Delisle was appointed to the Quebec Superior Court in 1983 and elevated to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1992.

He has been a supernumerary judge since May 2000, working on a part-time basis.