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How Does Litigation Work In Canada?

Canada litigation Lawyer

Canada’s courts help people settle disputes between two people or between the state and an individual represented by litigation lawyers. Not only that, but they also pronounce and interpret laws, decide on questions that can affect Canadian society, and set the standards on what is a law-abiding citizen.

Litigation in Canada

Canada’s litigation process is adversarial. After hearing both pleas, both parties exchange their discoveries, disclosing all documents. Each party will then prepare their case to present to the judge, who will decide based on the merits.

Limitation Period

The limitation period is the time of an individual’s right to claim against another must court proceedings start for that right to be established.

The limitation period in Canada varies, from province and territory, to what the legal matter is. For example, the basic limitation period for several common law provinces, including Ontario, is two years.

The limitation period starts when the claimant knows the element of the claims and becomes discoverable. It becomes discoverable when the claimant knows or needs to know the underlying cause of action.

The Courts That Handle Litigation

The different types of courts in Canada have their own jurisdiction. Meaning they only have the authority to decide specific types of cases. Below are the different types of courts you will find in Canada.

Provincial/Territorial (Lower) Court

Canada’s provinces and territory have their own provincial/territory court that hears cases involving provincial or territorial laws or federal laws.

These courts deal with cases like:

  • Criminal cases except for serious ones
  • Family Legal Matters (adoption, child support, child protection) except divorce
  • 12 to 17-year-olds who had conflicts with the laws
  • Violations on traffic and bylaws
  • Offenses on provincial/territorial regulations
  • Claims on a set amount of money
  • Small claims (civil cases on private disputes involving limited amounts of money)
  • Preliminary inquiries (to determine if a criminal case has to have a full trial because of how serious it is)

Provincial/Territorial Superior Court

These courts have inherent jurisdiction, meaning they can hear cases from any area except when a statute or rule prevents them.

These courts handle serious civil and criminal cases. These cases involve divorces, especially those that deal with a large amount of money.

Family Courts

Most superior courts have a family division, and some can have family courts. These courts deal with specific family law matters like property claims and divorce.

Provincial/Territorial Courts of Appeal

These courts hear the appeals from the decision of both the superior and the lower court. Other than appeals, these courts will also hear constitutional questions raised by individuals and government agencies.

The Federal Court System

The Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal make up the Federal Court System and work the same way as the provincial/territorial court system. The only difference is, they handle federal legal matters.

Federal Court

The National Court of Canada, the Federal Court, handles federal legal disputes. These can include:

  • Cases against Canada’s government
  • Civil suits in areas regulated by the federal government between
  • Reviews on most Federal Tribunal Decision

Federal Court of Appeal

The Federal Court of Appeal hears appeals from the decision of the Federal Court and Canada’s Tax Court. They’ll also do a judicial review on some of the federal tribunals in the Federal Courts Act.

Specialized Federal Court

These are the Tax Court of Canada, military court, and Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada.

The tax court handles cases and appeals that include federal tax and revenue legislation, while military courts hear cases that involve the Code of Service Discipline.

Every appeal on the decision of military courts is heard in the Court Martial Appeal Court.

Supreme Court of Canada

The final court of appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada, hears all the decisions from all the courts of appeals in Canada. They will only handle cases that they deem has significant importance to the nation. These can include cases that have an issue with a specific law. Or a case they consider worthy enough to be heard in the highest court of the land.


It would be best to know how litigation works in Canada and the types of courts that handle them, especially if you are working on one. So if you know someone going to court, share this article with them to let them know what to expect.

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