Appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada

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A person who “appeals” to the Supreme Court wants that court to take another look at a decision made by a lower court, such as the Court of Appeal of Quebec. The person appealing disagrees with the lower court decision.

But what is the Supreme Court of Canada? What kinds of cases does it accept? And what kinds of decisions can it make?

The Supreme Court of Canada: the Highest Court in the Country

The Court is located in Ottawa and has nine judges. Three of the nine must come from Quebec.

The Court is called “supreme” because it is the highest court in Canada for all types of cases. Its decisions are final and can’t be challenged. In other words, they can’t be appealed!

Kinds of Cases the Court Accepts

Usually, a case must go through lower courts before going to the Supreme Court of Canada. To take an example, a divorce case must go through the Superior Court and the Quebec Court of Appeal before going to the Supreme Court.

In most cases, a person who wants to appeal must ask the Supreme Court for permission. The Supreme Court doesn’t accept every request for appeal, in part because there are just too many. To give you an idea, the Court gets between 400 and 600 requests each year. It only accepts 10 to 12 percent of them. When it accepts or refuses a request to appeal, the court considers several factors. One factor is whether the case involves an issue of public importance or an important legal question.

In some cases, permission to appeal is not necessary. This happens mostly in criminal cases. People who want to appeal these cases only have to notify the Supreme Court that they are challenging the lower court decision. In legal terms, this is called an “appeal as of right”.

Decisions the Supreme Court Can Make

The Court can make various kinds of decisions. For example, it can:

• agree with the lower court decision
• make a completely new decision or change only certain parts of the lower court decision
• order that the case go back to a lower court for a new trial

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