The Provincial Court of British Columbia strives to serve the public by providing an accessible, fair, efficient and innovative system of justice. We are committed to providing a forum for justice that:
- is independent, impartial and consistent
- assures equal access for all
- maintains respect for the rule of law
- enhances confidence in the administration of justice and
- reflects core values of independence, fairness, integrity and excellence.
Most of the court cases in British Columbia are heard in Provincial Court - including all civil lawsuits for claims between $5001 and $35,000 (“Small Claims”), about 50% of all family law cases, most traffic & bylaw matters, most criminal cases, and most cases involving young offenders. About 150 Provincial Court judges work in more than 80 locations throughout the province to hear in excess of 225,000 cases per year.
Cases heard in the Provincial Court fall into five main categories:
The Provincial Court is a statutory court created by the Provincial Court Act – judges of the Court are appointed by the provincial government and exercise powers given to them by laws enacted by the federal and provincial governments.
The Provincial Court is one of two trial courts in British Columbia - the Supreme Court of British Columbia is the other. Provincial Court judges do not deal with divorce and division of family property, civil lawsuits for more than $35,000, or trials with juries. Supreme Court of BC judges (who are appointed by the federal government) deal with those matters. Appeals of some Provincial Court decisions go to BC Supreme Court, but appeals or further appeals of Provincial Court decisions are also heard by the Court of Appeal of British Columbia and the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Provincial Court of BC has existed in one form or another since the appointment of the first magistrate in 1850. In this area of the website you can learn more about the Court’s history and innovations, including several specialized courts. You will also find information about the various judicial officers who make up the Court and about judicial independence, an essential part of Canadians’ constitutional rights to have their legal issues decided by fair and impartial judges.
Public and media access to judicial proceedings is vital to our democratic system and the Provincial Court welcomes observers. The Court’s access policies can be found at Public & Media Access Policies .
Elsewhere in this section of the website, Alternatives to Court provides information on ways to resolve disputes without a hearing by a judge while Preparing for Trial contains resources for people who will be participating in a hearing or trial. Practice Directions & Notices are notices and directions issued by the Chief Judge, usually about procedural matters.
The Court’s Media Guide offers more information about the Court, its organization and its work, in a readable format. It’s not just for media!
For more on the Canadian judicial system, see Know your Judicial System.