Sunday, December 2, 2007
The Court system of Canada is made up of many courts differing in levels of legal superiority and separated by jurisdiction. Some of the courts are federal in nature while others are provincial or territorial.
The Canadian constitution gives the federal government the exclusive right to legislate criminal law while the provinces have exclusive control over civil law. The provinces have jurisdiction over the administration of justice in their territory. Almost all cases, whether criminal or civil, start in provincial courts and may be eventually appealed to higher level courts. The quite small system of federal courts only hear cases concerned with matters which are under exclusive federal control, such as immigration. The federal government appoints and pays for both the judges of the federal courts and the judges of the superior-level court of each province. The provincial governments are responsible for appointing judges of the lower provincial ("inferior-level") courts.
This intricate interweaving of federal and provincial powers is typical of the Canadian constitution.
Outline of the Court system
Although created by an Act of the Parliament of Canada in 1875, its decisions could be reviewed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council until 1949 when the Supreme Court of Canada truly became the final and highest court in the country. The court currently consists of nine justices, which include the Chief Justice of Canada, and its duties include hearing appeals of decisions from the appellate courts (to be discussed next) and, on occasion, delivering references (i.e., the court's opinion) on constitutional questions raised by the federal government. By law, three of the nine justices are appointed from Quebec; because of Quebec's use of civil law.
Supreme Court of Canada
These courts of appeal (as listed below by province and territory in alphabetical order) exist at the provincial and territorial levels and were separately constituted in the early decades of the 20th century, replacing the former Full Courts of the old Supreme Courts of the provinces, many of which were then re-named Courts of Queens Bench. Their function is to review decisions rendered by the superior-level courts and to do references (i.e., deliver a judicial opinion) when requested by a provincial or territorial government. These appellate courts do not normally conduct trials and hear witnesses.
These courts are Canada's equivalent of the Court of Appeal in England and the various State Supreme Courts and US Courts of Appeals in the United States. Each of the above-listed appellate courts is the highest court from its respective province or territory. A province's chief justice (i.e., highest ranking judge) sits in the appellate court of that province.
Alberta Court of Appeal
British Columbia Court of Appeal
Manitoba Court of Appeal
New Brunswick Court of Appeal
Supreme Court of Newfoundland (Court of Appeal)
Court of Appeal for the Northwest Territories
Nova Scotia Court of Appeal
Nunavut Court of Appeal
Ontario Court of Appeal
Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island - Appeal Division
Quebec Court of Appeal
Saskatchewan Court of Appeal
Court of Appeal of the Yukon Territory Appellate courts of the provinces and territories
These courts (as listed below by province and territory in alphabetical order) exist at the provincial and territorial levels. The superior courts are the courts of first instance for divorce petitions, civil lawsuits involving claims greater than small claims, and criminal prosecutions for "indictable offences" (i.e., "felonies" in American legal terminology). They also perform a reviewing function for judgements from the local "inferior" courts and administrative decisions by provincial or territorial government entities such as labour boards, human rights tribunals and licensing authorities.
Furthermore, some of these superior courts (like the one in Ontario) have specialized branches that deal only with certain matters such as family law or small claims. To complicate things further, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has a branch called the Divisional Court that hears only appeals and judicial reviews of administrative tribunals and whose decisions have greater binding authority than those from the "regular" branch of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Although a court, like the Supreme Court of British Columbia, may have the word "supreme" in its name, it is not necessarily the highest court from its respective province or territory.
Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta
Supreme Court of British Columbia
Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba
Court of Queen's Bench of New Brunswick
Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Trial Division)
Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories
Supreme Court of Nova Scotia
Nunavut Court of Justice
Ontario Superior Court of Justice
Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island - Trial Division
Quebec Superior Court
Court of Queen's Bench for Saskatchewan
Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory Superior-level courts of the provinces and territories
- ▼ December (5)