Canadian Legal Systems


Canadian Legal Systems


Canada, law, legal systems, common law, civil law, aboriginal legal systems, oral traditions


This section examines the legal systems that exist in Canada with a particular view to exploring the intersection of these systems with Canadian senses of identity.

Canada has three primary legal traditions: indigenous law, civil law, and common law. Indigenous law is a legal system based on the values of indigenous persons and includes the use of oral traditions in a central way. Common law is a legal system which derives law from judicial precedent. Civil law, in contrast, adjudicates civil matters and is based solely on codified statute.

In this section, we emphasize the interactions and conflicts among Canadian legal systems, as well as the result of said conflict in the justice system. Finally, we examine recommendations to improve congruence among the systems especially vis-à-vis indigenous law.


Samantha Davis
Xavier Monaghan
Xhesika Resuli
Dr. Theresa Miedema, ed.







Collection Items

Overview of the court system in Canada

Team photo: Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia
Photograph of the Tsilhqot’in Nation legal team involved in the Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia case at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Full list of names for the above photo: Chief Roger William (the representive plaintiff, centre),…

This is a hyperlink to the 2014 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia. In Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, the Supreme Court of Canada established Aboriginal title for the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The case…

This video remembers and honours survivors of the Canadian residential schools.

Thinking About Indigenous Legal Orders
In this paper, the author explores how we might understand law from an Aboriginal perspective. She makes a critical distinction between "legal systems" and "legal order". She explores the sources of law, the kinds of law, legal reasoning, and the…

Information brochure: TTC Justice Council & Peacemaker Court
This brochure provides information about the Teslin Tlingit Justice Council and Peacemaker Court. A tripartite agreement among the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Yukon government, and the Canadian government provided for the establishment of a Teslin…

Administration of Justice Agreement Poster
This poster marks the creation of the Administration of Justice Agreement among the Teslin Tlingit Council, the government of Yukon Territory, and the government of Canada. This agreement, the first of its kind in Yukon Territory, gave the Teslin…

Infographic -- Historical Treaties and Treaty First Nations in Canada
This infographic provides information about pre-1975 treaties with First Nations in Canada.

Hyperlink to a website maintained by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. The hyperlink lands on a webpage containing the "Calls to Action: Justice" adopted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It contains links to related…

This website highlights the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that relate to equity. The website contains links to materials related to these calls for action and links to materials relevant to monitoring whether these calls…

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
This document is part of the 2012 Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. This document contains all the Calls to Action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report.

Excerpts from Connolly v. Woolrich et al. (1867), 17 R.J.R.Q. 75
These files contain excerpts from Connolly v. Woolrich et al. , an important 1867 case. This case considered the legality of a marriage between a man employed by the Hudson Bay and an indigenous woman. The wedding was not performed by a priest, but…

This web page provides background information about the common law tradition, the civil law tradition, Aboriginal treaty rights, how Parliament makes laws, and the nature of regulations.

This audio file is an excerpt from the CBC Radio program, The Current, broadcast on Jan. 25, 2017. It reports on the failures of the Canadian federal government to make progress in addressing the Calls to Action outlined in the Truth and…

Report: Legal Dualism and Bilingual Bisystemism: Principles and Applications
This set of FAQs seeks to clarify the concepts of legal dualism and bilingual bisystemism. From this report: "Legal dualism is the explicative theory built on the coexistence of two legal systems of private law within the Canadian legal framework;…

From the website: "As a legacy of the colonisation of North America by France and Great Britain, two legal traditions co-exist in Canada – civil law in Quebec and common law in all other provinces and territories. The Department of Justice is…

Image: Bijuralism: A Timeline
This image is a timeline that illustrates key historic moments related to the development of bijuralism in Canada.

Sections 25 and 35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Sections 25 and 35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms address how rights protected under the Charter will intersect with existing rights held by Canada's Indigenous peoples. Section 25 guarantees that no rights protected under the…

Royal Proclamation, 1763
From the website of the Government of Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, "250th Anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763": "On October 7, 1763, King George III issued a Royal Proclamation establishing a new administrative structure…
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