Legal Proceedings available to Individuals before the Highest Courts: A Comparative Law Perspective - Canada

06-10-2017

This study is part of a wider project seeking to investigate, from a comparative law perspective, judicial proceedings available to individuals before the highest courts of different states, and before certain international courts. The aim of this study is to examine the various judicial proceedings available to individuals in Canadian law, and in particular before the Supreme Court of Canada. To this end, the text is divided into five parts. The introduction provides an overview of Canadian constitutional history, which explains the coexistence of rights derived from several legal traditions. It then introduces the federal system, the origins of constitutional review, as well as the court structure (I). As Canada practises a ‘diffuse’ (or ‘decentralized’) constitutional review process, the second part deals with the different types of proceedings available to individuals in matters of constitutional justice before both administrative and judicial courts, while highlighting proceedings available before the Supreme Court of Canada (II). This is followed by an examination of the constitutional and legal sources of individual — and in some cases collective — rights (III), as well as the means developed by the judiciary, the legislative, and the executive branches to ensure the effective judicial protection of rights (IV). The conclusion assesses the effectiveness of proceedings available to individuals in matters of ‘constitutional justice’. Essentially, while Canadian citizens benefit from a wide range of rights and proceedings, access to the country’s Supreme Court is restricted due to the limited number of cases the Court chooses to hear every year. More generally, access to justice continues to pose real challenges in Canada. This is not due to judicial failings or a lack of sources of rights per se, but rather to lengthy judicial delays and the often enormous costs of proceedings.

This study is part of a wider project seeking to investigate, from a comparative law perspective, judicial proceedings available to individuals before the highest courts of different states, and before certain international courts. The aim of this study is to examine the various judicial proceedings available to individuals in Canadian law, and in particular before the Supreme Court of Canada. To this end, the text is divided into five parts. The introduction provides an overview of Canadian constitutional history, which explains the coexistence of rights derived from several legal traditions. It then introduces the federal system, the origins of constitutional review, as well as the court structure (I). As Canada practises a ‘diffuse’ (or ‘decentralized’) constitutional review process, the second part deals with the different types of proceedings available to individuals in matters of constitutional justice before both administrative and judicial courts, while highlighting proceedings available before the Supreme Court of Canada (II). This is followed by an examination of the constitutional and legal sources of individual — and in some cases collective — rights (III), as well as the means developed by the judiciary, the legislative, and the executive branches to ensure the effective judicial protection of rights (IV). The conclusion assesses the effectiveness of proceedings available to individuals in matters of ‘constitutional justice’. Essentially, while Canadian citizens benefit from a wide range of rights and proceedings, access to the country’s Supreme Court is restricted due to the limited number of cases the Court chooses to hear every year. More generally, access to justice continues to pose real challenges in Canada. This is not due to judicial failings or a lack of sources of rights per se, but rather to lengthy judicial delays and the often enormous costs of proceedings.

External author

EPRS, Comparative Law; Professor Johanne Poirier of McGill University, Montreal