There are three levels of courts, similar to those described below, in every Canadian province: Provincial Court, Court of Queen’s Bench, and the Court of Appeal. Appeals can be made from a lower court to a higher court. There are also some federal courts that deal with matters such as citizenship and income tax. Finally, there is the Supreme Court of Canada which is the highest court in the land and hears appeals from everywhere in Canada.
The following information provides an overview of our court system and the types of disputes that can be heard in each court.
The jurisdiction of the Provincial Court includes small claims, youth court and first appearances on all criminal matters. Provincial Court Judges are appointed by the Province of Saskatchewan.
In some judicial centres, child protection matters and certain other family matters may go to Provincial Court or to the Family Law Division of the Court of Queen’s Bench. Some judicial centres also provide specialized services, such as drug treatment court and domestic violence court.
Saskatchewan also has a Cree Court that travels to northern parts of the province, such as Pelican Narrows, Sandy Bay, Whitefish First Nation and Ahtahkakoop First Nation. Court officials such as the judge, clerks and court workers speak Cree and individuals may have access to Cree-speaking legal aid lawyers or Crown prosecutors. The Cree Court sits and presides over matters within its jurisdiction just as any other Provincial Court.
In addition, larger centres have Traffic Safety Courts and Bylaw Courts presided over by Justices of the Peace.
The Court of Queen's Bench can hear both civil and criminal trials. It is also an appeal court for some criminal cases originally tried in Provincial Court and small claims cases. With some exceptions, family matters generally go to the Family Law Division of the Court of Queen’s Bench. Jury trials may take place in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Queen’s Bench Judges are appointed by the Government of Canada.
The Court of Appeal hears appeals from the Court of Queen’s Bench. It is also the appeal court for some of the criminal trials which take place in Provincial Court. Court of Appeal Judges are appointed by the Government of Canada.
The reasons for an appeal from a lower court decision are limited to the judge making an error about the law. It is not enough that one or both parties disagree with the decision or that they disagree with the decision the judge made about who was telling the truth. An appeal judge can only overrule a lower court if an error in the application of the law was made
The Federal Court of Canada deals with matters such as civil cases involving the federal government, as well as matters dealing with patent, copyright and maritime law. There are also some specialized federal courts, such as the Tax Court of Canada, that only deal with one area of the law. Appeals from any federal court are heard by the Federal Court of Appeal, as well as applications for review from some federal tribunals or boards such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission or the Immigration and Refugee Board.
The Supreme Court of Canada consists of eight judges and a Chief Justice. When a dispute involves Quebec civil law, at least two judges from Quebec must sit on the appeal.
This is the highest court in Canada. The decisions are final and conclusive. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters throughout Canada. It also decides all matters referred to it by the federal government, such as constitutional questions. In order to be heard in the Supreme Court, it may be necessary to have a “leave of appeal” granted.
Usually leave is granted when an important question of law is involved in civil cases and where a significant sum of money is involved. In criminal cases, the appeal usually involves a serious offence and an “important application of the law.” Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Supreme Court hears many constitutional cases.
All other courts must follow the decisions of this court unless the Supreme Court of Canada itself overrules a previous decision it made.