1. Overview of Canadian Law

Courts In Canada

Courts in Canada are designed to resolve disputes between parties. Courts are tasked with examining and interpreting laws and ensuring alignment with the Constitution. The courts also set standards, define issues at question, and develop ongoing common law which can impact many areas of Canadian society.

The court system in Canada is divided into two levels: federal and provincial/territorial. At the federal level, the Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court in the country and hears appeals from other federal and provincial/territorial courts. Below the Supreme Court are the Federal Courts, which include the Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. At the provincial/territorial level, the highest court is the Court of Appeal. Below that are the superior trial courts, which hear more serious cases, and the provincial/territorial courts, which hear less serious cases. In addition, there are specialized courts, such as family courts, youth courts, and small claims courts, which deal with specific types of cases.

In Canada, the courts are independent from other branches of government. An independent judiciary is essential for upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of citizens. It ensures that the laws are interpreted and applied fairly and without bias. This helps to ensure that justice is served and that all individuals, regardless of their social or economic status, are treated equally under the law. An independent judiciary also serves as a check on the power of the executive and legislative branches, acting as a guardian of the Constitution and its fundamental principles including ensuring that the government is accountable for its actions and that the rights of citizens are respected and maintained.

Although it is difficult to identify specific numbers, a significant percentage of legal actions are settled outside of the court system. One reason for this is the expense of taking a case to trial and the uncertainty concerning the outcome. Lawyers are expensive and judges may not view the issues in dispute the same way as the litigants. The combination of the costs and risks involved in bringing a case to court leads many businesspeople to find alternative ways to resolve disputes which typically includes negotiation, mediation, arbitration or a combination of some or all of these mechanisms.

Tribunals are independent bodies that provide dispute resolution services in a wide range of areas and are usually established by legislation. They are a form of administrative justice, providing a less formal and less costly alternative to the court system. Tribunals are responsible for resolving disputes between individuals and organizations, and between individuals and government. They also make decisions on appeals, reviews and hearings on matters such as employment insurance, workplace safety, human rights, tenant protection, and labour relations.


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Business Law and Ethics Canadian Edition Copyright © 2023 by Craig Ervine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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