Canadian Legal System

The Canadian Common Law

Though Canada is now fully independent from Britain, British Common Law still applies, as it does in the United States and other former British colonies. Common Law is basically the idea that precedent matters, and that decisions and definitions set down by courts in earlier times still apply to everyone today.

Though Canadian judges now have more than enough independent Canadian legal precedent to help them make decisions, it’s not entirely uncommon for judges, when faced with a particularly thorny legal question, to refer back to the judgments of British judges in the colonial period, or even earlier, in order to provide historical context for the purpose of laws or understanding, say, what “libel” is supposed to mean. The famed Magna Carta of 1215, for instance, which first outlined basic principles of English justice, is still considered one of the foundational documents of Canadian Common Law.


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