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The structure of Canada's court system

Anyone in Alberta who is considering moving forward with a court case or an appeal should know exactly how the courts are structured and how cases will move through various courts. The whole legal process is sometimes a bit overwhelming if you've never gone through it before, so this information can be very helpful and can put you at ease.

The lowest court is the territorial or provincial court. You'll find these in Alberta and almost all other parts of Canada, with the lone exception being Nunavut. Regardless, if you start a court case, this is likely where it will begin.

After that are the provincial and territorial superior courts. In some cases, for more serious issues, the cases start here, jumping the lower courts. For most civil matters, though, these are the secondary courts that are used when a decision made in a lower court is being appealed.

Appeals may also end up in the provincial and territorial courts of appeal. These can be used as cases progress or as the initial appeal for a case that started in the superior courts.

Finally, the highest level in the entire legal system is the Supreme Court of Canada. After a case has moved up through the various levels and been subjected to appeals, if no decision can yet be reached, the Supreme Court may choose to take on the case. They have the final say in these matters.

This structure is not too difficult to follow, but it's worth noting that it can take some time for cases to move from one court to the next. Make sure you know all of the legal steps that are necessary for each different level.

Source: Department of Justice, "Canada's Court System," accessed Aug. 20, 2015

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