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- Legal System
The legal system of Canada draws upon two main sources: British Common Law and the Civil Code of Quebec, with some input from Canadian Aboriginal law. Common Law is known as ‘law by precedent’ and has its roots in English royal courts. By contrast, the civil law of Quebec derives from the French civil code and prevails in private matters in the region of Quebec only. These sources were formalised into a coherent whole by the Charters and Rights of Freedoms Act (1982), which created the constitution of the same name.
Both at a federal and provincial level, justice is administered in a tiered structure. At the top, the Supreme Court presides over the judicial system and is the final court of appeal in civil and criminal cases. Below this are the Federal Court, the tax court of Canada, and the provincial and territorial superior courts of general jurisdiction. The next tier is of provincial courts, including the traffic division, the small claims division, the family division and the criminal division. Judges in the federal courts and the superior provincial courts are appointed by the federal government.
In the Common Law provinces, which make up the majority, barristers and solicitors (who practice as both) are the normal legal professionals, whilst notaries operate in the civil-law province of Quebec. Due to these peculiarities, notaries and solicitors have somewhat different statuses within and outside Quebec. Only members of law societies can practice law and each province or territory has its own law society. Membership candidates from Canada must usually have earned a graduate degree, have attended a Canadian law school and acquired practical experience.
Graduates of law schools outside Canada and other experienced foreign lawyers can obtain a ‘certificate of equivalency’ from the National Committee on Accreditation, which can help smooth entry into a provincial law society. The Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) is the national coordinating body of Canada’s 14 law societies. Between them Canada’s provincial and territorial law societies govern over 100,000 lawyers and 4,000 Quebec notaries.
The largest law firms currently practicing in Canada are Borden Ladner Gervais, Gowling Lafleur Henderson and Fasken Martineau, the winners of the International Legal Alliance award for Best Canadian Law Firm in 2012. The Canadian winner of the Client Choice Awards in 2012 was McMillan LLP. The ‘Seven Sisters’ is a group of seven leading Canadian law firms with offices in Toronto – Blake, Cassels and Graydon LLP; Davies Ward Philips and Vineberg LLP; Goodmans LLP; McCarthy Tertault LLP; Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP; Stikeman Elliot LLP and Torys LLP.
Information from the World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013
Legal rights index
Efficiency of legal framework in settling disputes
Efficiency of legal framework in challenging regulations
Property rights (including financial assets)
Intellectual property protection
|Legal organisations in Canada|
|D Gosal & Associates||
|Department of Justice Canada||