Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada (English Supreme Court of Canada, French Cour suprême du Canada ) is the highest judicial organ of the state of Canada. It is at the top of the succession of appeals of the Canadian legal system. The court meets in the capital Ottawa and evaluated annually not more than one hundred lawsuits that have been handed down from the courts of appeal of the federal government, the territories and the provinces. Traditionally the decisions for all subordinate courts are binding. The nine-member Supreme Court consists of eight simple judges ( puisne justice, juge puîné ) and the Chairman ( Chief Justice of Canada, Juge en chef du Canada ).


After the establishment of the Dominion Canada in 1867 with the idea to create a supreme court of appeal for the new country was born. Prominent politicians, including the Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald and Alexander Mackenzie supported this project. However, in Parliament loyalty to the British tradition was still very pronounced and so the respective legislation in 1869 and 1870 were rejected. It was only on April 8, 1875, the law was adopted. The Supreme Court began its operations on 18 November 1875. At the beginning there were six judges. However, since this often led to indecisive judgments, the number was increased to seven in 1927.

Before 1949, however, the Supreme Court was not the highest authority. Judgments could be appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. Also, the Supreme Court could be skipped in some cases, so that its influence was rather modest. While the Supreme Court 's judgments tend to be precipitated in the sense that the state was strengthened, fell from the judgments of the Privy Council usually in terms of the rights of the provinces. This increasing contrast between centralism and federalism led in the 1930s to demand to create an independent from the UK legal system.

From 1933, the Supreme Court had the final authority in criminal matters, since 1949 also in all other cases. This year, the number of judges was increased to nine. The Constitutional Act of 1982, which triggered the last constitutional ties to Britain, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This fundamental right had a greater impact statement to the court at the Canadian Society for the episode, as they greatly expanded the scope of judicial review law.

Role and approach

The structure of the Canadian court system is pyramidal. Different courts in the provinces and territories form a broad basis, the judges are appointed by the provincial and territorial governments. At the next level are the supreme courts of the provinces and territories, whose judges are appointed by the federal government. Judgments of these courts can be appealed to the courts of appeal of the provinces and territories. There are also various courts of appeal at the federal level, whose jurisdiction is limited.

At the top of this pyramid is the Supreme Court of Canada; he is like the Supreme Court of the United States and in contrast to the Federal Constitutional Court itself part of the succession of appeals. It assesses cases that are passed by the highest appellate courts at the provincial, territorial and federal levels. Under certain circumstances (for example, publication bans and other commandments, which are not subject to appeal ) get the cases directly to the Supreme Court. Most selected by a panel of three Supreme judges whether a case is handled, where it emits according to customary law, no justification for acceptance or rejection. The Supreme Court also needs to specific legal questions by the Cabinet his opinion announce ( so-called reference questions ). For ordinary cases, new issues may arise in relation to the Constitution. The Supreme Court is then required to inform the federal and provincial governments thereof, so that they may intervene and present their views.

The Supreme Court will for 18 weeks a year, from the first Monday in October and usually end of June. Hearings shall be held only in Ottawa, process participants, who live in remote areas, however, may make oral statements on a video conference system. The hearings of the Court are public, most will be recorded for later broadcast in both official languages ​​. If the court convenes, it convenes Monday to Friday and treated daily two cases. In appeal practices at least five judges must be present, but usually there are all nine.

The Chief Justice, or in his absence, the most senior of the other Judges, chairs meetings and sits on the chair in the middle, the others are sitting on the right and left of it in the order of their appointment. The judges usually appear in black silk robes to the meetings. However, for special occasions as well as in the Senate Hall at the opening of each new session of Parliament they wear scarlet robes with white mink ceremony.

The court's decision is sometimes communicated orally at the conclusion of the hearing. Mostly, however, the decision is first reset to allow the judges time for their written arguments. Decisions of the Court do not have to be unanimous, but the inferior judges have the right to justify its decision in writing also, if they so wish.

The Supreme Court has the final judicial review on the constitutional validity of federal and provincial laws. If a law has not been declared in accordance with the Constitution, the Parliament, either affected the decision has to accept, amend the law within the meaning of the Constitution or to successfully perform a change of the Constitution. If a law is not in conformity with an article in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the concerned Parliament may set with the proviso the article during five years in force, but this rarely happens. In some cases, the court may suspend the entry into force of the judgment, so that the legislature will have enough time to change a law within the meaning of the sentence.

Since 1967, the Court of assistants who are usually selected from among the best students of Canadian law schools. They operate legal research, assist in the formulation of judgments or preparing speeches and articles. Each of the judges has a simple wizard that the Chief Justice of three ( two before 1982 ).


The Supreme Court shall sit in the Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa. This is on a hill on the banks of the Ottawa River and is surrounded by a park. It contains three courtrooms, the two smaller ones being used in the wings by the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal.

Construction began in 1939, the foundation stone was laid by Elizabeth, the wife of King George VI. The building was designed in the style of Art Deco by architect Ernest Cormier. In January 1946, it was finally ready for occupancy.

Until 1889, the Supreme Court was held in the Parliament building, in the room of the railway commission. From 1889 it had its own building, the neo-gothic Old Supreme Court in Bank Street, the vacancy after the move and was demolished in 1955.


Supreme Court of Canada are appointed by the Governor General de jure, based on the recommendation and with the approval of the Privy Council. According to tradition and customary law under the Cabinet has only the Governor-General, not the entire Privy Council (technically, the Cabinet is only the standing committee within the larger the Privy Council ). Usually delivers only the Prime Minister to the representative of the Crown 's recommendation, in the context of a conversation. The provinces and the parliament are not involved in the decision making. De facto, the appointment of the Prime Minister so thing.

The Supreme Court Act limits the Ernennbarkeit on people, the judges were at a higher court or belong to at least ten years of a Bar Association. At least three of the chief judge must by law belong because of the Bar of Québec or have spoken in this province to a higher court. This is justified by the fact that in Quebec not Common Law arrives at private law as opposed to the rest of the country for use, but the civil law of continental European coinage. According to customary law, the remaining six judges items are as follows among the provinces divided: three from Ontario, two from Western Canada and Atlantic from the provinces.

A judge of the Supreme Court, like all other federal judges at the age of 75 years necessarily resign, there is no appointment for life.