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Supreme Court of Canada
301 Wellington St,
Ottawa Ontario, K1A
Phone:  (613) 995-4330
Web:  www.scc-csc.gc.ca

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The Supreme Court stands a short distance from Parliament Hill -- a reminder that, while the judiciary is a branch of Canada's government, it is completely independent from the legislative and executive branches of government. The Supreme Court interprets the Canadian constitution and is the highest court of appeal in the land. It hears criminal and civil cases from the ten provincial courts, the three territorial courts and from the Federal Court.

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Quick Facts

Open
May to August daily, from 9 am to 5 pm. Guided tours of the courtrooms are offered every day, including weekends. Closed Saturday and Sunday from 12 pm to 1 pm. Reservations for guided tours are required during the rest of the year and guided tours are offered only Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm. 

Cost: Free

Services
Wheelchair accessible, parking on nearby streets.
Center block: wheelchair acces via the door under the main entrance of the Peace Tower acces.
East block: wheelchair acces by west entrance, elevators to 2nd floor; Guided tours available, check schedule.

Groups
For groups of 10 or more people, reservations are required (613) 995-5361 or 995-4330.

The Supreme Court holds hearings only in Ottawa. These hearings are open to the public and visitors may tour the building as well. Guided tours are offered in the summer. 

Did You Know?

  • Everyone in Canada is subject to the law -- even Parliament, even the Prime Minister. 
  • Justices are appointed by the Governor General and are completely independent. 
  • Canada has two legal systems: one is based on British common law and the other is based on French civil law. Three of the nine Supreme Court justices come from the Quebec bar to ensure that the Quebec civil code is properly interpreted. 
  • Until 1949, matters could be appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Now, all cases are decided in Canada. 
  • The Supreme Court judges do not have to agree. The majority rules, but dissenting opinions are also published.

Canada's Court House

Interpreting Constitutional Matters

The Supreme Court of Canada represents the judicial branch of Canada's parliamentary system. It plays an important role in advising the federal and provincial governments on the interpretation of Canada's constitution.

Canada was created by a law, the "British North America Act", passed by the British Parliament in 1867. Over the years, the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution and established Canadian legal precedents.

In 1982, the "British North America Act" of 1867 was patriated to Canada and renamed the "Constitution Act". At that time, a written Charter of Rights and Freedoms was added. This has given the Supreme Court an increasingly important role in defining social issues and political rights.

A General Court of Appeal

The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal for criminal and civil cases. It reviews appeals from the ten provincial courts and the federal court. Generally, the Supreme Court hears cases where a question of public importance or an important issue of law needs to be decided. 

A Stately Building

Two statues, identified as "Justicia" (Justice) and "Veritas" (Truth), flank the entrance to the Supreme Court building. The art deco edifice was designed by Montreal architect Ernest Cormier and opened in 1946. The building is open to the public daily; guided tours are offered by law students in the summer.

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