Not all cases are handled in the same court; in most of Canada, there is a tiered system to hear various types of trials. In all provinces and territories of Canada (except for one), there are three levels of court: the Supreme Court of Canada, Superior Courts, and Lower/Territorial/Provincial Courts. The exception is in Nunavut, which implements a single-level trial court where judges hear all types of claims. If you’ve been charged with a criminal offence, you may be wondering which level of court will hear your trial. In this article, we will go over each level of court and define their duties: 

Provincial / Territorial / Lower Courts

This level of court will hear more minor criminal cases. They deal with the majority of Canadian court cases, including small claims. Most average citizens deal with the Provincial or Territorial Court; it’s considered the lowest level in the hierarchy. It includes specialized divisions like Youth and Family Courts. Judges at this level are appointed by the province. In some cases, a preliminary hearing will be held at the Lower Court, and the trial will be heard at the Superior Court.

Superior Courts

Judges in Superior Courts deal with serious offences, including murder, divorce, and theft involving large amounts of money. They may review decisions made by the lower levels of court. In the Superior Courts, there are two branches: trial and appeal levels. At the first level, they deal with appeals in civil and criminal cases. Trial level courts hear cases regarding criminal and civil cases; they also approve divorces. Civil cases involve private matters like estate or family law, while criminal cases are for crimes that are offences against the government and focus on a person or organization. The Superior Court will hear and review decisions made by the lower court. 

The Supreme Court of Canada

The Federal Court consists of nine judges; six to represent common law, and three from Quebec to represent civil law. They hear cases that have national implications, although they can also review the outcomes of more minor trials—it’s rare for private law cases to be heard in the Supreme Court. This court has the authority to review private, criminal, constitutional, and administrative law. It also handles matters of terrorism. If an individual believes they did not receive a fair hearing in a Lower Court, their case may be brought to the Supreme Court of Canada. Appeals from lower levels of court are heard in this tier. Once a verdict is made by these judges, it is final. If the government has questions about the interpretation of the Constitution or wants an opinion on a legal matter, it will consult the Supreme Court. 

When you are accused of a crime, it can have long-term implications on your employment status, criminal record, and daily life. You need legal representation from someone who is educated about the Canadian criminal code. If you are looking for criminal lawyers in Winnipeg, contact Matt Gould, an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. He can help you with matters at all levels of court.