Lesson 3: Overview of Court System

Topic 4: Canada’s Court System

Federal Courts

Federal Court: This court deals with civil matters involving disputes by individuals or groups with the federal government; disputes by provincial governments with the federal government; and cases in specialized areas of federal law, including income tax, patents, customs, and maritime law.

Federal Court of Appeal: This court reviews decisions made by the Federal Courts. Decisions that are made here can only be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Supreme Court of Canada: This court can appeal any type of dispute, criminal or civil. Cases in this court are heard by three, seven, or all nine judges. Judgements that are made here are final, and cannot be appealed to any other court.

Provincial and Territorial Courts

Court of Appeal for BC: This court hears civil cases appealed from the Supreme Court of British Columbia and criminal cases appealed from the provincial levels of criminal trial courts. In this court, at least three judges and sometimes five hear appeals together.

Supreme Court of BC: This is the highest trial court in the province. The judges in this court may sit alone or with juries. It deals with civil cases involving money over $25,000, serious criminal cases such as murder, and divorce and custody cases.

Provincial Court of BC: In this court, the judges sit alone as there are no jury trials. It hears matters in four areas: criminal, family, small claims (disputes amounting to $25,000 or less) and traffic and by-laws.

The Courtwatcher’s Manual is an all-in-one booklet for anyone wanting to watch and learn more about BC’s court system. To view it online, visit the Justice Education Society’s website at http://www.JusticeEducation.ca/resources/Courtwatcher-Manual.