The Appeal Process in Canada

Provincial and Territorial Courts

The Appeal Process in Canada

The Appeal Process in Canada’s Court System – text version

The image is an infographic explaining the appeal process in Canada’s court system, starting from the Provincial/Territorial Superior Court and Federal Court of Canada, up to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Provincial and territorial superior courts hear the most serious criminal and civil cases. These courts can also hear from people who claim that a law or action of any level of government is unconstitutional. They sometimes review the decisions of lower provincial and territorial courts.

The Federal Court hears cases that involve federal law, including constitutional challenges to federal law or actions. It can also review the decisions of most federal boards, commissions and tribunals. If a decision is considered unreasonable or unconstitutional, the judge can order the decision-maker to reconsider. Otherwise, the original decision stands.

If the parties reach an agreement, this usually ends the judicial process.

If either party disagrees with a judge’s decision, they can ask the Provincial/Territorial Courts of Appeal or the Federal Court of Appeal to review it.

If the appeal court allows the appeal, it can: reverse or change the judge’s decision, or order a new trial or hearing. Otherwise the decision stands. The person who appeals must show that the judge's interpretation of the law or the facts affected the result.

If the parties reach an agreement, this usually ends the judicial process.

Parties who disagree with the appeal court’s decision can appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada – but they first have to ask the Court to hear the case (except in very limited circumstances for some criminal cases).

The Supreme Court of Canada is the final court of appeal. It only agrees to hear cases that are important across the country or that have to do with unsettled areas of law. If it does not agree to hear a case, the decision of the court of appeal stands. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear a case, it can: reverse or change the judge’s decision, order that there should be a new trial or hearing, or agree with the court of appeal’s decision.

This information is produced by the Department of Justice Canada.

This infographic explains only a small picture of Canada’s court structure and attendant processes and powers. It is not intended as legal advice.

Provincial and territorial superior courts hear the most serious criminal and civil cases. These courts can also hear from people who claim that a law or action of any level of government is unconstitutional. They sometimes review the decisions of lower provincial and territorial courts.

Federal Court

The Federal Court hears cases that involve federal law, including constitutional challenges to federal law or actions. It can also review the decisions of most federal boards, commissions and tribunals. If a decision is considered unreasonable or unconstitutional, the judge can order the decision-maker to reconsider. Otherwise, the original decision stands.

If the parties reach an agreement, this usually ends the judicial process.

Courts of Appeal

If either party disagrees with a judge’s decision, they can ask the Provincial/Territorial Courts of Appeal or the Federal Court of Appeal to review it.

If the appeal court allows the appeal, it can reverse or change the judge’s decision, or order a new trial or hearing. Otherwise the decision stands. The person who appeals must show that the judge's interpretation of the law or the facts affected the result.

If the parties reach an agreement, this usually ends the judicial process.

Supreme Court of Canada

Parties who disagree with the appeal court’s decision can appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada – but they first have to ask the Court to hear the case (except in very limited circumstances for some criminal cases).

The Supreme Court of Canada is the final court of appeal. It only agrees to hear cases that are important across the country or that have to do with unsettled areas of law. If it does not agree to hear a case, the decision of the court of appeal stands. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear a case, it can: reverse or change the judge’s decision, order that there should be a new trial or hearing, or agree with the court of appeal’s decision.

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