Dispute Resolution – Canada’s Court System

See Chinese version below [中文版参阅下文]

In this series of blogs, we will provide an overview of dispute resolution mechanisms in Canada. The first blog will focus on the court system in Canada.

Under the Constitution Act, 1867, the judiciary is separate from and independent of the executive and legislative branches of government. Judicial independence is a cornerstone of the Canadian judicial system. Judges make decisions free of influence and based solely on fact and law. Canada has provincial trial courts, provincial superior courts, provincial appellate courts, federal courts and a Supreme Court. Judges are appointed by the federal or provincial and territorial governments, depending on the level of the court.

Each province and territory (with the exception of Nunavut) has a provincial court. These courts deal primarily with criminal offences, family law matters (except divorce), traffic violations and provincial or territorial regulatory offences. Private disputes involving limited sums of money are resolved in the small claims divisions of the provincial courts. The monetary ceilings for the small claims division vary from province to province (e.g., British Columbia is set at C$35,000, Alberta is set at C$50,000, and Ontario is set at C$25,000).

The superior courts of each province and territory try the most serious criminal cases, as well as private disputes exceeding the monetary ceiling of the small claims divisions of the provincial courts. Although superior courts are administered by the provinces and territories, the federal government appoints and pays the judges of these courts.

In the Toronto Region of the Province of Ontario, the Superior Court of Justice maintains a Commercial List. Established in 1991, the Commercial List hears certain applications and motions in the Toronto Region involving a wide range of business disputes. It operates as a specialized commercial court that hears matters involving shareholder disputes, securities litigation, corporate restructuring, receiverships and other commercial disputes. Matters on the Commercial List are subject to special case management and other procedures designed to expedite the hearing and determination of complex commercial proceedings. In addition, judges on the Commercial List are experienced in commercial and insolvency matters.

Each province and territory has an appellate court that hears appeals from decisions of the superior courts and the provincial and territorial courts. Ontario also has a Divisional Court that serves as a court of first instance for the review of administrative action. It also hears appeals from provincial administrative tribunals, interlocutory decisions of judges of the Superior Court and appeals from the Superior Court involving limited sums of money (currently C$50,000 or less).

The Federal Court of Canada has limited jurisdiction. Its jurisdiction includes inter-provincial and federal provincial disputes, intellectual property proceedings, citizenship appeals, Competition Act cases, and cases involving Crown corporations or departments or the government of Canada. The Federal Court, Trial Division hears decisions at first instance. Appeals are heard by the Federal Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of Canada is the final court of appeal from all other Canadian courts. It hears appeals from the appellate courts in each province and from the Federal Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court of Canada has jurisdiction over disputes in all areas of the law, including constitutional law, administrative law, criminal law and civil law. There is a right of appeal in certain criminal proceedings, but in most cases leave must first be obtained. Leave to the Supreme Court of Canada may be granted in cases involving an issue of public importance or an important issue of law.

在本系列博客中,我们将对加拿大的争端解决机制进行概述。以下博客将对加拿大的法院系统进行介绍。

加拿大法院体系

根据1867年《宪法》,加拿大司法体系完全独立于政府行政和立法部门之外。司法独立是加拿大司法制度的基石。法官完全是根据案件事实和法律作出裁决而不受任何因素影响。加拿大有省级审判法院、省高级法院、省上诉法院、加拿大联邦法院和加拿大最高法院。基于法院的级别,这些法院的法官均由联邦政府或省级政府和特区政府任命。

每个省和特区(除了努纳武特地区)都拥有省级法院。这些法院主要受理刑事犯罪、家庭法律事项(离婚除外)、交通违规和违反省级或特区法规的事项。涉及款项有限的私人纠纷均因省而异并在其省级法院的小额索赔法庭受理。例如,在不列颠哥伦比亚省的小额索赔限额不得超过$35,000加元;在阿尔伯达省不得超过$50,000加元;在安大略省不得超过$25,000加元。

每个省份和特区的高级法院受理最严重的刑事案件,还受理那些超过省级法院的小额索赔限额的私人纠纷案。虽然省高级法院由各省和特区管理,然而,联邦政府任命并支付这些法院法官的薪金。

在安大略省多伦多地区,高级法院还有一个商业法庭。自1991年成立以来,该商业法庭听审在多伦多地区涉及各种商业纠纷方面的某些提诉和动议。这个专门的商业法庭审理的案件涉及到股东纠纷、证券诉讼、企业重组、破产接管和其他商业纠纷。商业法庭上的案件均按照特别的案件管理程序和旨在加快聆讯及裁定这些复杂商业诉讼的其它程序进行。此外,商业法庭上的法官们在商业和破产领域方面具有丰富的经验。

每个省和特区有一个上诉法院,该上诉法院审理对高级法院、省级和特区法院的裁判提出的上诉。安大略省还有一个分区法院作为行政案件的初审法院。同时,它还审理来自省级行政法庭所提出的上诉、高级法院的中间裁决、以及高级法院提出的上诉案件涉及有限款项(目前为$5万加元或小于这一额度)的法官裁决。

加拿大联邦法院司法管辖权有限。其管辖权范围包括跨省、联邦与省之间的纠纷、知识产权诉讼、公民申诉、《竞争法》案件、和涉及国家企业或部门或加拿大政府方面的案宗。联邦法院审判司是初审法院。联邦上诉法院审理上诉案件。

加拿大最高法院是加拿大所有其他法院的终审上诉法院。加拿大最高法院受理来自各省上诉法院和联邦上诉法院所提出的上诉案宗。加拿大最高法院对法律个方面的争议拥有司法管辖权,包括宪法、行政法、刑法、民法纠纷。虽然在某些刑事诉讼中有上诉权一说,但在大多数情况下上诉必须先获得许可。加拿大最高法院的上诉许可,在关乎重大公众意义的议题或重要法律问题的情形下才可能获得。

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