The Supreme Court of Canada is the court of last resort for all legal issues in Canada, including those of federal and provincial jurisdiction. From humble beginnings as an opaque body subject to being overruled by the British Privy Council, the court now has the final judicial say on a broad range of contentious legal and social issues, ranging from the availability of abortion to the constitutionality of capital punishment and assisted suicide.
The court system of Canada forms the judicial branch of the federal, provincial and territorial governments and is independent of the legislative and executive branches of government. The Constitution Act, 1867 provides for the establishment and operation of Canada’s judiciary, including its courts of law. It gives the federal government exclusive lawmaking power over criminal law and criminal procedure, but not over the establishment of criminal courts. It gives the provinces exclusive lawmaking power over the administration of justice in each province. Canada has four levels of court: the Supreme Court of Canada; the Federal Court of Appeal, and provincial and territorial courts of appeal; provincial and territorial superior courts; and, provincial and territorial (lower) courts. Each type of law court has the authority to decide specific types of cases.
The Access to Information Act was enacted by Parliament in 1982 and took effect in July of 1983. This federal Act entitles an individual to examine information concerning the conduct of government, including information in connection with the formulation of federal government policy.
The office of the solicitor general has its historic roots in England. In Canada the office varies substantially from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some provinces the office of the solicitor general is subsumed under one or more different portfolios, but in most it is separate and distinct.
Maritime Rights was a regional protest that climaxed in the 1920s. Essentially a reform movement, it was triggered by the region's declining influence in CONFEDERATION and its inability to protect important interests in transportation, tariffs, port development and federal subsidies.
The Naval Service Act, passed by the Liberal government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, established the Royal Canadian Navy on 4 May 1910. Before the Act passed, Canada did not have a navy of its own and relied on the British Royal Navy. This new defence initiative was a direct response to the naval arms race between Britain and Germany in the years before the First World War and the 1909 panic in Britain over expansion of the German navy. The Act was built on earlier, distinctively Canadian approaches to defence and its key provisions remained in force until 1950. The Naval Service Act was bitterly opposed by French Canadian nationalists, led by Henri Bourassa, who feared deeper involvement in imperial affairs.
Royal Assent on 22 June 1774 and put in effect on 1 May 1775, the Quebec Act (An Act for making more effectual Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec in North America) revoked the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Contrary to the proclamation — which aimed to assimilate the French Canadian population — the Quebec Act was passed to gain the loyalty of the local French-speaking majority of the Province of Quebec. Based on the experiences of Governors James Murray and Guy Carleton, it, amongst other things, guaranteed the freedom of worship and restored French property rights. The Act, however, had dire consequences for Britain’s North American empire. Considered one of the five “Intolerable Acts,” the Quebec Act was one of the direct causes of the American Revolution. It was followed in 1791 with the Constitutional Act.