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Justice and the Law

Justice and the Law in Canada

This page provides an integrated resource of reference sources dealing with the Canadian justice system, legislation, the courts, law enforcement and other public justice institutions.

Canada's Bijural Legal System
Laws of Canada
Role of Government
Public Legal Education and Information
National Crime Statistics and Reports
Canada's Court System
Law Enforcement
Law Societies

Canada's Bijural Legal System

Canada's bijural legal system, which draws on both English common law and French civil law, is nearly unique among Western democracies. Only two jurisdictions in North America provide for civil law: the state of Louisiana and the province of Quebec. Bijuralism is a reflection of Louisiana's and Quebec’s similar colonial history. (See distribution of World Legal Systems.)

Laws of Canada

The making of federal laws entails many steps: from legal drafting to tabling and discussion in Parliament, to enactment and then to the drafting of regulations which define their application and enforcement. For more on the legislative process, consult:

Parliament site

This site contains an online searchable resource of all government and private members bills before Parliament and their status (readings) before the House of Commons and the Senate.

Consolidated Statutes and Regulations

The online source for all Canadian laws or statutes and their regulations.

Canada Gazette

The Canada Gazette is one of the vehicles that Canadians can use to access the laws and regulations that govern their daily lives. It has been the "official newspaper" of the Government of Canada since 1841. Government departments and agencies as well as the private sector are required by law to publish certain information in the Canada Gazette.

Related Publications

Guide to the Making of Federal Acts and Regulations
Cabinet Directive on Law Making
Canada's Legal System
Canada's Legal Tradition
How a Bill Becomes Law in Canada
Canadian Justice System and Law Enforcement
- Canadian Embassy in Washington
Frequently Asked Questions

Role of Government

The Department of Justice Canada

The Department's responsibilities reflect the dual role of the Minister of Justice, who is also the Attorney General of Canada; while the Minister is concerned with questions of policy and their relation to the justice system, the Attorney General is the chief law officer of the Crown.

Most Criminal Code offences are prosecuted by the provinces, but the Department of Justice, acting for the Attorney General, carries out prosecutions under all other federal laws, including drug offences. In the territories, the Department conducts all criminal prosecutions, including those under the Criminal Code. The Department also fulfils Canada 's international treaty obligations to provide assistance to foreign states in criminal matters through extradition and mutual legal assistance processes.

Other Federal Government Institutions

A comprehensive alphabetical listing provides direct links to the primary Web sites of Government of Canada departments, agencies and Crown corporations.

The Department of Justice is responsible for the legal affairs of the Government of Canada as a whole and for providing legal services to individual departments and agencies through departmental legal services units (DLSUs), which are co-located with client departments and agencies and in six regions.

The Consolidated Statutes and Regulations site is a directory of legislation drafted for various federal departments and agencies. If you have questions or comments about the interpretation or the applicability of these statutes, you can contact the Department, agency or Crown corporation responsible for the specific statute or regulation, or contact the government hotline 1-800 O Canada (1-800 622-6232). You can determine the Minister responsible for a statute and any associated regulations in the Table of Public Statutes and Responsible Ministers. (Please note that the terms "statute" and "act" or "Act" mean the same thing.)

Legal Jurisdictions

Canada has a federal system of government. This means that the authority to make laws is divided between the Government of Canada and the provincial and territorial governments. The federal government deals with matters that affect all of Canada, such as criminal law, trade between provinces, telecommunications, immigration and extradition, and fisheries.

The provinces and territories make laws in such areas as education, property and health services.

Public Legal Education and Information

Public Legal Education and Information (PLEI) provides citizens with the legal information they need to make informed decisions and participate effectively in the justice system. The Department of Justice Canada supports the delivery of public legal education and information by providing annual funding to PLEI organizations within each province. Territorial agencies are funded through the Access to Justice Service Agreements.

These organizations do not give "legal advice"; they provide information or referrals about various aspects of the law. For example, PLEI might deal with new legislation; child support guidelines; rights of victims; family violence; or youth justice.

Canadian Legal Information Institute

The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) is a not-for-profit organization launched by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada with the goal of making primary sources of Canadian law accessible at no charge on the Internet. CanLII gathers legislative and judicial texts, as well as legal commentaries, from federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions on a single Web site.

National Crime Statistics and Reports

Statistics Canada

Statistics Canada provides statistics on such topics as victims, accused and criminals, as well as correctional services, police and the courts.

An index of statistical reports is available at no charge on various topics and types of crime, such as organized crime, cyber-crime, hate crime, and victim services.

Canadian Centre for Justice Statictics

This reference tool contains electronic data tables illustrating current and historical data from a number of Statistics Canada surveys. The database shows data on crime, police administration, adult and youth court activity, the correctional population and transition homes, as well as such issues such as criminal victimization and family violence.

Crime in Canada

From the 2001 Canada Year Book, this e-learning site form Statistics Canada provides a more narrative approach to profiling crime in Canada on such topics as violent crime, youth crime, impaired driving, fraud and technological crime.

Canada's Court System

The Canada's Court System booklet provides a general description of the court system in Canada, the types and levels of courts and their responsibilities. The following is a list of the courts in Canada.

Federal Courts

Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada is Canada's highest court. It is the final general court of appeal, the last judicial resort for all litigants, whether individuals or governments. Its jurisdiction embraces both the civil law of the province of Quebec and the common law of the other provinces and territories.

Federal Court of Appeal

Appeals from the Federal Court are heard by the Federal Court of Appeal. The Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal also review decisions, orders and other administrative actions of federal boards, commissions and tribunals.

Federal Court of Canada

The Federal Court is Canada's national trial court. It hears and decides legal disputes arising in the federal domain, including claims against the Government of Canada, civil suits in federally regulated areas and challenges to the decisions of federal tribunals.

Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada

This Court hears appeals from military courts which are known as courts martial. The courts martial have power to try military personnel, and civilians accompanying such personnel abroad, for crimes and offences against the Code of Service Discipline.

Tax Court of Canada

The Tax Court of Canada is a superior court to which individuals and companies may appeal to settle disagreements with the Government of Canada on matters arising under legislation over which the Court has exclusive original jurisdiction. Most of the appeals made to the Court relate to income tax, the goods and services tax or employment insurance.

Provincial Courts

British Columbia: http://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/
Alberta: http://www.albertacourts.ab.ca/go.aspx?tabid=4
Saskatchewan: http://www.sasklawcourts.ca/default.asp?pg=provincial_court
Manitoba: http://www.manitobacourts.mb.ca/index.html
Ontario: http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/english.htm
Quebec: http://www.justice.gouv.qc.ca/english/accueil.asp
New Brunswick: http://www.gnb.ca/cour/index-e.asp
Nova Scotia: http://www.courts.ns.ca
Prince Edward Island: http://www.gov.pe.ca/courts/supreme/index.php3
Newfoundland: http://www.court.nl.ca/provincial/default.htm

Administrative Tribunals

At the federal level, there are roughly 18 administrative tribunals that exercise some form of quasi-judicial decision making.

The mandates and responsibilities of these tribunals vary widely, but include human rights and freedoms, economic regulatory matters, socioeconomic matters and appeals. They vary in size as well. The Immigration and Refugee Board has more than 170 members and an annual budget of over $75 million, while the Copyright Board has four members and a budget of less than $1 million.

Some boards such as the Canadian Transportation Agency, regulate a specific industry while others have jurisdiction over all sectors. Some boards may have a defined policy advisory role while others do not.

Canada Employment Insurance Commission

Courts Administration Service

The role of the Courts Administration Service (CAS) is to provide administrative services to four courts of law: the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada and the Tax Court of Canada. These services permit individuals, companies, organizations and the Government of Canada to submit disputes and other matters to the courts, and enable the courts to hear and resolve the cases before them fairly, without delay and as efficiently as possible.

Law Enforcement

Public Safety Canada

Public Safety Canada fulfills the fundamental role of government to secure the public's safety and security. Public Safety Canada is dedicated to protecting the safety of Canadians – from risks to personal safety from crime or naturally occurring events such as severe blizzards, floods or forest fires, to threats to national security from terrorist activity.

The Department provides policy leadership and delivers programs and services in the areas of national security and emergency management, policing, law enforcement and borders, and corrections and crime prevention.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is the Canadian national police service and an agency of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. It also has responsibilities for provincial and municipal policing functions in the provinces and territories.

National Crime Prevention Strategy

The National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) is based on the principle that the surest way to reduce crime is to focus on the factors that put individuals at risk — factors like family violence, school problems and drug abuse. It aims to reduce crime and victimization by tackling crime before it happens.

Canada Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) ensures the security and prosperity of Canada by managing the access of people and goods to and from Canada.

Canadian Firearms Centre

The Canada Firearms Centre (CFC) was created by an order-in-council in 2003 to oversee the administration of the Firearms Act and the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP). The Firearms Act and its related regulations govern the possession, transport, use and storage of firearms in Canada. The objective of the CFP is to help reduce firearm-related death, injury and crime and to promote public safety through universal licensing of firearm owners and registration of firearms in Canada .

Correctional Service Canada

Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is the federal government agency responsible for administering sentences of a term of two years or more, as imposed by the court. CSC is responsible for managing institutions of various security levels and supervising offenders under conditional release in the community.

Provincial Police

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) provides policing services to various regions of Canada, such as the Western provinces, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and the Maritimes. The provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland have their own police forces.

Municipal Police

A partial directory of municipal police forces can be found at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

Law Societies

Canadian Bar Association

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) is a professional, voluntary organization which was formed in 1896, and incorporated by a special act of Parliament on April 15, 1921. Today, the Association represents some 38,000 lawyers, judges, notaries, law teachers, and law students from across Canada. Approximately two-thirds of all practising lawyers in Canada belong to the CBA.

Provincial branches of the CBA

Federation of Law Societies of Canada

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is the umbrella organization of the fourteen Law Societies in Canada which govern the legal professionals. In total, the Federation represents 83,000 lawyers in Canada and 3,200 notaries in Quebec.

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