Legal Studies 3080

Alberta Courts

In Alberta, our court system is divided into three levels.

Provincial Court

At the bottom level is the Provincial Court, so called because the judges in this court are appointed by the province. In urban areas the provincial court is usually divided into five separate divisions, each of which hears cases of a specific sort. These divisions are as follows.

  • Provincial Court, Criminal Division . This is the largest division of the Provincial Court and the one that will concern you the most in this course. It is here that every criminal case starts out, except those involving young offenders, though more serious cases  often end up being tried in a higher court.

  • Provincial Court, Civil Division . This division is often called Small Claims Court . Here civil actions involving amounts of money up to $25,000 are usually heard (although there are a few other restrictions on what cases are tried here). If, for example, you paid someone $3,000 to do some work on your property and the work was never completed, you would commence an action in this court to recover that money.

  • Provincial Court, Family Division. In this division, cases involving many family-law issues, such as child custody or maintenance, are heard.

  • Provincial Court, Youth Division . In this division, which was recently separated from the Provincial Court, Family Division, young people charged with criminal offences under the Youth Criminal Justice Act are normally tried.

  • Provincial Court, Traffic Division . As its name implies, this is the division that hears cases involving traffic violations. It also hears cases involving the breaking of municipal bylaws .

Court of Queen's Bench

The second level of Alberta Courts is the Court of Queen's Bench. Though this court is set up and maintained by the province, its judges are appointed by the federal government. The court conducts trials for more serious civil and criminal cases. It also acts as an appeal court for the Provincial Court.

Court of Appeal

The third level of courts in Alberta is the Court of Appeal. Judges in this court are also appointed by the federal government. No actual trials are heard in this, the highest court in the province. Rather, it acts as a court of appeal from the lower courts; normally this involves lawyers arguing points of law before a panel of three judges. Relatively very few cases ever reach this level. There is only one more place a dissatisfied party can go to appeal a decision from this court - the Supreme Court of Canada.