In British Columbia, there are three levels of court. There are two trial courts and one appeal court.
The first level, Provincial Court, is the broad base of the justice system. It hears the vast majority of cases – including family, traffic, civil called (Small Claims) and criminal cases.
The Provincial Court also hears virtually all criminal cases involving youth from ages 12 to 17. In addition, for most criminal cases that go to the Supreme Court, a preliminary hearing is held in Provincial Court.
To learn more, see Provincial Court.
The Supreme Court is the highest trial court in British Columbia. It hears civil cases over $25,000, family law cases involving divorce and custody, as well as serious criminal cases.
The Supreme Court also hears appeals of Provincial Court cases. There are currently about 100 justices and masters that hear cases province wide. Supreme Court orders cannot be altered by the Provincial Court. Only the Court of Appeal for BC or the Supreme Court of Canada can modify or overturn the decisions of the Supreme Court of BC.
To learn more, see Supreme Court.
The highest court in British Columba is the Court of Appeal, which hears appeals from the Supreme Court. This court is exclusively an appellate court and does not hear trials. All courts in Canada must follow the decisions of the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of Canada. To learn more, see Court of Appeal.
Tribunals are like courts, but they are not part of the court system. An example of a tribunal is the Residential Tenancy Branch, which solves disputes between landlord and tenants. Tribunals are an important system for resolving special disputes.
Tribunals hear disputes about special government rules and regulations. An adjudicator, not a judge, hears the case. The process is less formal than a court hearing. Adjudicators have very specialized knowledge about one area of law, like employment insurance, disability benefits, or refugee claims.
A tribunal decision can be reviewed by the court through a process called “judicial review”. It is often difficult to get a tribunal decision set aside because judges don’t like to second-guess a decision made by an expert tribunal.
Last reviewed: March 2016
IMPORTANT: This page provides legal information, not legal advice. If you need legal advice consult a lawyer.
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