You are a new immigrant or maybe you just have had no personal experience with the law in any form and you want to know a little bit about the court system in British Columbia. Perhaps you are planning to sue someone or you are being sued by someone.
Generally speaking, one option for many people will be in the form of a tribunal process. This could be the Immigration and Refugee Board, the Employment Standards Branch, or the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Some tribunals are provincial and some are federal. You can find out more about administrative law and tribunals in BC here: http://www.adminlawbc.ca/tribunals. Tribunals are usually cheaper and easier ways to solve your problems, but they may not be your only options. Sometimes you will have the option of filing your claim in Provincial or Supreme Court of British Columbia instead and sometimes you may appeal the decision of a tribunal to the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
The lowest level court is the Provincial Court in British Columbia. Generally speaking, if your claim is for less than $25,000, then you will probably file in Provincial Court which is also known as small claims. However, there are certain claims under $25,000 that the Provincial Court cannot help you with. The Supreme Court deals with all claims that the Provincial Court cannot and some that it can. Always consult with a lawyer about your options in filing your claim so that you can make the best decision about where to file your claim.
The Court of Appeal in British Columbia is the highest level court in the Province and is one that you are unlikely to interact with. If you are or are wanting to pursue an action in the Court of Appeal, then you should have a lawyer representing you. Arguments in the Court of Appeal are usually highly technical, complex, and based in part on recent or developing case law with which few non-lawyers will have the experience to handle competently.
Clear as mud right? Call a lawyer and save yourself the headache of trying to navigate the legal system alone.
Matthew J. Van Den Hooven
Matthew is a lawyer based in Nanaimo, B.C. Please note that the accuracy of the information in this blog is not guaranteed and that the law does change. It is not a replacement for independent legal advice. Contact Matthew to arrange for an appointment today.