The Canadian Legal System
Statement of Claim: A document setting out the basis for a legal complaint.
The Canadian legal system is the machinery that comprises and regulates government. It is
divided into three branches:
The legislative branch creates law in the form of statues and regulations.
The executive branch formulates and implements government policy and law.
Government policy: The central ideas or principles that guide government in its
work including the kind of laws it passes.
The judicial branch adjudicates on disputes.
Constitutional Law: The supreme law of Canada that constrains and controls how the branches
of government exercise power. Charged with upholding "the values of a nation."
Liberalism: A political philosophy that elevates individual freedom and autonomy as its key
The Canadian Legal System: The machinery that comprises and governs the legislative,
executive, and judicial branches of government.
The Canadian Constitution
Written elements of the Canadian Constitution:
Constitution Act, 1867
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Identifies the rights and freedoms that are
guaranteed in Canada).
Constitutional Conventions: Important rules that are not enforceable by a court of law but
that practically determine or constrain how a given power is exercised. (A code of ethics
that governs our political processes).
The Legislative Branch of Government
Legislative Branch: The branch of government that creates statute law.
Statute Law: Formal, written laws created or enacted by the legislative branch of
Example: Criminal Code of Canada
Three levels of government make legislation in Canada:
Parliament: The federal legislative branch.
Law-making jurisdiction provided by S. 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867
The House of Commons
The Senate (Also called "the chamber of sober second thought"
For legislation to become a law, it must first be passed by the House of Commons
and then approved by the Senate. Each Province also has a law-making body.
British Columbia - the Legislative Assembly
Nova Scotia - the House of Assembly
There is no Senate or upper house.
Municipalities (Created by Provincial Legislation)
Have city councils
Powers delegated to them by the province in which they are located
Statute Law and Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction: The power that a given level of government has to enact laws.
Exclusive juridiction: Jurisdiction that one level of government holds entirely on its
own and not on a shared basis with another level.
Criminal Code of Canada falls under Federal Jurisdiction.
Concurrent juridiction: Jurisdiction that is shared between levels of government.
Paramountcy: A doctrine that provides that federal laws prevail when there are
conflicting or inconsistent federal and provincial laws.
Regulations of business is generally a provincial matter.
Municipality legislation takes the form of bylaws.
Bylaws: Laws made by the municipal level of government.
Ratify: To authorize or approve.
Treaty: An agreement between two or more states that is governed by international law.
The Executive Branch of Government
Formal Executive: The branch of government responsible for the ceremonial features of
Governor General - The Queen's federal representative
Lieutenant Governor - The Queen's provincial representative
Both issue approval as the final step in creating statute law.
Political Executive: The branch of government responsible for day-to-day operations,
including formulating and executing government policy, as well as administering al
departments of government.
Federal Level - The Prime minister
Provincial Level - The Premier
The Cabinet: A body composed of all ministers heading government departments,
as well as the prime minister or premier.
Has a very significant law-making function
Often passes Regulations
Regulations: Rules created by the political executive that have the
force of law.
The Judicial Branch of Government
Judiciary: A branch of government - A collective reference to judges.
The judiciary is to be independent from the legislative and executive branches of government.
Is composed of Judges.
Judges: Those appointed by federal and provincial governments to
adjudicate on a variety of disputes, as well as to preside over criminal
The System of Courts
Judges operate within a system of courts
Three basic levels:
Trial Courts - Two types:
A court with limited financial jurisdiction whose judges are appointed by
the provincial government.
Organized by types of cases:
Sometimes called Small claims court
A court that deals with claims up to a specified
Generally smaller amounts and varies across
A court with unlimited financial jurisdiction whose judges are appointed
by the federal government.
Provincial courts of Appeal - Hear appeals from these lower courts, and
sometimes go to the supreme court of c