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The Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court - The Highest Court of Appeal in Canada

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Supreme Court of Canada

Supreme Court of Canada

Photo courtesy City of Ottawa

Updated: 02/26/2013

The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court in Canada. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for both individuals and governments in the country.

Appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada hears appeals from both provincial and territory appeal courts and the Federal Court of Appeal.

Appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada come from three different sources.

1. Leave to Appeal - a panel of three Supreme Court justices gives permission or leave to appeal. This is required for most cases heard by the Supreme Court. The panel decides if the case involves a question of public importance or if it raises an important issue of law, or a combination of law and fact.

2. Right to Appeal - for some criminal cases and cases from provincial references leave to appeal is not required.

3. References - questions are referred by the federal cabinet.

Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada

There are nine justices on the Supreme Court of Canada - the Chief Justice of Canada and eight puisne (lower rank) justices. Supreme Court justices are appointed by the Governor General, but in effect they are chosen by the Prime Minister from a shortlist of candidates prepared by the Minister of Justice with recommendations from the provincial law societies. A Supreme Court justice must have either served as a superior court judge or been a member of a provincial or territory law society for at least ten years.

Supreme Court justices are appointed until they retire or reach the age of 75, however can be removed for cause before that time.

Justices are not allowed to hold other offices or be involved in business enterprises.

Sessions of the Supreme Court of Canada

About 80 appeals are heard by the Supreme Court of Canada each year.

Appeals can be heard by five justices of the Supreme Court, but most appeals are heard by seven or nine justices.

The Supreme Court holds three three-month sessions each year. The opening days of sessions may vary but in general

  • the Winter session begins in January
  • the Spring session begins in April
  • the Fall session begins in October.

The Supreme Court of Canada sits Monday to Friday, in Ottawa, and is open to the public. You can check for scheduled hearings.

Supreme Court of Canada Decisions

Decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada do not need to be unanimous. An appeal may be decided by the majority of the justices, with the reasons for dissenting given by the minority.

Judgements of the Supreme Court of Canada are available on the Lexum site.

Supreme Court Official Site

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