Supreme Court of Canada - Year in Review 2019

Cover image of the Year in Review 2019
Cover image of the Year in Review 2019
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A Message
from the Chief Justice

Chief Justice Wagner

When I became Chief Justice just over two years ago, I committed to making the Court more open and understandable, and to enhancing access to justice for everyone. In 2019, the Court celebrated some important milestones and made meaningful progress toward these goals.

In 2019, the Minister of Justice and I signed an Accord to formalize the Court’s relationship to the other branches of the Canadian state. It goes to the heart of our democracy and rule of law. It ensures the Court remains fully independent, and is seen to be independent. This safeguards justice for all Canadians.

In September, the Court held hearings outside of Ottawa for the first time in history, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. During this visit, we spoke with Manitobans, answered their questions, and met with several communities recognized in our Constitution. Hundreds of local people got to see the Court in action, as we heard two appeals — one on the right to a trial in a reasonable time, and another on minority language education rights. I hope we can do this in other cities in the future.

In 2019, the Court issued an important decision in the area of administrative law. The Court decided as a group that the time had come to bring clarity to this area of law, which affects virtually every part of people’s lives. The resulting decision is meant to make the law clearer and more predictable for everyone. This will have profound effects in the years to come.

These accomplishments were all part of being more open and accessible. The annual Year in Review is also part of this. In this second edition, we’ve worked to provide more information in an even more engaging and approachable way. We encourage other courts and tribunals to think about ways that they can do this, too.

2019 brought other changes as well. We said goodbye to our colleague Justice Gascon, who retired in September. At the same time, we welcomed Justice Kasirer to our bench.

Happy reading!

Sincerely,

 

Signature of the Rt. Hon. Richard Wagner, P.C.

Rt. Hon. Richard Wagner, P.C.

Chief Justice of Canada

Chief Justice Wagner
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2019 by the Numbers
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This graphic shows that in 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada...

  • Received 517 applications for leave (permission) to appeal
  • Received 25 notices of appeal as of right (not needing permission)
  • Granted 36 applications for leave
  • Heard 69 appeals
  • Heard from 148 main parties and 241 interveners
  • Issued 67 decisions (deciding 72 cases)

This was the very first photo ever taken of the current judges together. It was taken in the library of the Winnipeg Law Courts on September 23, 2019.

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The Judges of the Supreme Court of Canada

Nine judges sit on the Supreme Court of Canada, including the Chief Justice. By law, three judges have to be from Quebec. This is because Quebec applies civil law for many non-criminal issues, which is very different from the common law applied in the rest of Canada. By tradition, three judges are from Ontario, two are from Western Canada, and one is from Atlantic Canada.

A minimum of five judges must hear each appeal, though there are usually seven or nine (it has to be an odd number to avoid a tie).

In 2019, Justice Clément Gascon retired and Justice Nicholas Kasirer was appointed in his place.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner

Chief Justice Richard Wagner

Born: 1957 (Montreal, QC)
Appointed: 2012 (Quebec)
Appointed as Chief Justice: 2017
Law school: University of Ottawa
Years on the bench*: 14

Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella

Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella

Born: 1946 (displaced persons camp in Stuttgart, Germany)
Appointed: 2004 (Ontario)
Law school: University of Toronto
Years on the bench*: 44

Justice Michael J. Moldaver

Justice Michael J. Moldaver

Born: 1947 (Peterborough, ON)
Appointed: 2011 (Ontario)
Law school: University of Toronto
Years on the bench*: 30

Justice Andromache Karakatsanis

Justice Andromache Karakatsanis

Born: 1955 (Toronto, ON)
Appointed: 2011 (Ontario)
Law school: Osgoode Hall
Years on the bench*: 18

Justice Suzanne Côté

Justice Suzanne Côté

Born: 1958 (Cloridorme/Gaspé Peninsula, QC)
Appointed: 2014 (Quebec)
Law school: Laval University
Years on the bench*: 5

Justice Russell Brown

Justice Russell Brown

Born: 1965 (Vancouver, BC)
Appointed: 2015 (Alberta)
Law school: University of Victoria (master’s and doctorate: University of Toronto)
Years on the bench*: 7

Justice Malcolm Rowe

Justice Malcolm Rowe

Born: 1953 (St. John’s, NL)
Appointed: 2016 (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Law school: Osgoode Hall
Years on the bench*: 20

Justice Sheilah L. Martin

Justice Sheilah L. Martin

Born: 1957 (Montreal, QC)
Appointed: 2017 (Alberta)
Law school: McGill University (master’s: University of Alberta, doctorate: University of Toronto)
Years on the bench*: 14

Justice Nicholas Kasirer

Justice Nicholas Kasirer

Born: 1960 (Montreal, QC)
Appointed: 2019 (Quebec)
Law school: McGill University (master’s: Université Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne))
Years on the bench*: 10

Justice Clément Gascon

Justice Clément Gascon

Born: 1960 (Montreal, QC)
Appointed: 2014 (Quebec)
Retired: September 15, 2019**
Law school: McGill University
Years on the bench*: 17

* All court levels, as of 2019.
** Retiring judges may continue to work on cases they heard for six months after stepping down.

Justice Gascon

Farewell, Justice Gascon

“Justice Gascon has made a significant contribution to Canada and to Canadian jurisprudence during his judicial career. His thoughtful, rigorous, and collegial approach has always helped us get to the heart of the most complex issues. He has served Canadians with integrity and wisdom. All of his colleagues will miss his commitment and friendship.”

- Chief Justice Wagner

Did you know?

SCC Judges

Judges at the Supreme Court of Canada have two sets of robes. They wear black robes to court when they hear cases. Red robes are worn for more formal occasions, like welcome ceremonies for new judges and the Speech from the Throne. The red robes are passed down from one judge to the next, and tailored to fit. Like lawyers, judges also wear white tabs at their necks, though these may sometimes be covered by the larger red robes.

The judges in the Judges’ Conference Room, where deliberations take place.

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Canada’s Highest Court

An Independent and Impartial Institution

The Supreme Court of Canada is the final court of appeal for the whole country. It hears appeals from the Courts of Appeal of all provinces and territories, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada. In rare cases, when there isn’t a right to appeal somewhere else, the Supreme Court can hear appeals from other courts.

The Supreme Court is independent and impartial. It only hears cases that are particularly important to the public. It helps develop Canadian law and makes sure laws are applied clearly and fairly across the country.

The Supreme Court is the only bilingual (two languages) and bijural (two legal systems) supreme court in the world. It hears and decides cases in English and French. It deals with cases from Canada’s two major traditions — common law (based on English law) and civil law (based on the French civil code, applied for most non-criminal matters in Quebec).

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Accord to Strengthen the Independence
of the Supreme Court of Canada

Under the Constitution, Canada has three separate and equal branches of state. The executive branch (the Prime Minister and Cabinet) decides policy. The legislative branch (Parliament) makes and passes laws. The judiciary (the courts) interprets laws once they are passed. It is important for the rule of law, and for public trust, that each of these branches remains independent. This helps keep our democracy in balance.

Because of this, it is important for courts to be independent, and be seen to be independent. In July 2019, the Chief Justice and the Minister of Justice signed an Accord aimed at recognizing and reinforcing the independence of the Supreme Court of Canada. The Accord sets out the relationship between the Chief Justice and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, as well as between the Court’s administration and government departments. As a public document, the Accord furthers important goals of clarity and openness.

Ivstitia (Justice) with the Peace Tower in the background.

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#SCCinWinnipeg

Bringing the Court to Canadians

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September 22, 2019 - Calgary Flames @ Winnipeg Jets / Bell MTS Place

In September, the Supreme Court sat outside of Ottawa for the first time in history. It was part of the Court’s continued commitment to increasing access to justice.

Hundreds of people watched the judges in action at the Manitoba Court of Appeal in Winnipeg, where Supreme Court judges heard two cases. The judges also spoke to thousands of high school students and hundreds of law students. They met with members of Indigenous groups, the francophone community, and the legal community. At a meet-and-greet at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, members of the public had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the judges.

At some of these events, the judges presented a video about the Supreme Court and its work.

Access to Justice: A Priority

The Supreme Court makes independent and impartial decisions about issues that matter to everyone. This is a crucial task. That’s why it is important that people understand how and why a given decision was reached. It is hard to have confidence in something if you don’t understand it. It is hard to trust a decision-maker if you don’t know who they are. These are just some of the barriers that can put justice out of reach for many.

The judges of the Supreme Court of Canada believe it is important for Canadians to see how our justice system works, and who its judges are. This is why the Court decided to hear cases outside of Ottawa. It gave more people the opportunity to see Canada’s highest court in person.

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A New Administrative Law Framework

Justices Côté and Moldaver.

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Decisions made by governments, or those acting on their behalf, are called “administrative decisions.” They are part of “administrative law.” Most legal decisions that affect people are administrative decisions, not court ones.

An administrative decision can be anything from a letter from a benefits agency, to a town by-law, to a decision by a tribunal. Administrative decision-makers often aren’t judges or lawyers. Their decisions usually don’t look like court decisions. But judges and courts have a role. Under the Constitution, courts in Canada can make sure administrative decision-makers follow the rules. They do this through a process called “judicial review.”

When a court looks at an administrative decision, it applies a certain “standard of review.” The standard of review is the legal approach to analyzing the decision. Which standard applies depends on what kind of decision it is. But there was a lot of debate about which standard of review applied in which situation. There was also debate about how each standard should be applied.

In 2018, the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that this area of law was unclear and, in some cases, unworkable. As a group, they decided it was time to look at it again. They selected three cases, about two very different issues, through which they could fully examine the standard of review.

Along with the parties involved in each case, the Court heard from 27 interveners and two “amici curiae” over three days of hearings. (“Amicus curiae” is a Latin term meaning “friend of the court”; “amici curiae” is the plural, meaning “friends of the court.” They are independent lawyers a court asks to provide information and insight.) The Court gave parties and interveners more time and pages for arguments so they could address the complicated issues of standard of review in general, as well as the ways that it applied to their cases.

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The judges in the Courtroom during a hearing.

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Justices Moldaver, Gascon, and Brown preparing for a hearing
in the Judges' Conference Room.

In 2019, the Court issued its decisions in the administrative law “trilogy” and changed the way courts look at administrative decisions. The goal was to make the law clearer and more predictable. This, in turn, will increase access to justice by helping people better understand how courts will look at the administrative decisions that affect them.

To learn more, read the “Case Law in Brief” on the Standard of Review.

Clipping of article in the CBA/ABC National Clipping of article in the Lawyer's Daily Clipping of article in the Canadian Lawyer

The "Trilogy"

The Supreme Court selected three cases to change how courts look at administrative (non-court) decisions, to make the law clearer and more predictable.

The Administrative Law Trilogy

Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov

  • In the first decision, the Court said that a person born in Canada to parents who were undercover Russian spies was a Canadian citizen.

Bell Canada v. Canada (Attorney General) (two cases)

  • In the second decision, the Court said that a decision to allow American Super Bowl ads to be shown in Canada went beyond the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s power.
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A Court for All Canadians

The Court takes part in exchanges and meetings with its global counterparts at home and abroad. Judges also make speeches and give lectures in Canada and other countries. In 2019, Supreme Court judges participated in over 100 speeches and engagements, speaking to thousands of people.

The Court in Canada...

April 12

  • Publication of the Court’s first annual Year in Review
  • Chief Justice Wagner attends the Annual Summit of the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters

May 16

June 20

July 1

  • The Supreme Court opens its doors to visitors for its annual Canada Day celebration
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July 22

  • Signing of Accord by the Chief Justice and Minister of Justice to recognize and reinforce the independence of the Supreme Court

September 22-27

October 1

  • Unveiling of touchable scale model of the SCC building for visually-impaired visitors
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November 4

December 5

... and in the World

May 2

  • Chief Justice Wagner elected to a three-year term as President of the Association des cours constitutionnelles francophones (the Association of Francophone Constitutional Courts) at the ACCF’s 8th triennial congress (Montreal). The ACCF is a group of 48 constitutional (or equivalent) courts from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas.
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May 28-30

  • Chief Justice Wagner and other judges attend the Asia-Pacific Judicial Colloquium (Singapore)

June 17

  • Visit of the Diplomatic Corps (representatives of foreign countries in Canada) to the Supreme Court (Ottawa)

July 4

  • Chief Justice Wagner delivers a lecture on civility and collegiality at the Cambridge Lectures (Cambridge, UK)

July 8-9

  • Chief Justice Wagner and other judges participate in the United Kingdom Supreme Court/Supreme Court of Canada judicial exchange (London, UK)
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August 26

  • Visit of Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado of Japan to the Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa)
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October 22-23

  • Chief Justice Wagner represents Canada at the Enthronement of the Japanese Emperor and meets with judges of the Supreme Court of Japan (Tokyo, Japan)
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November 24-27

  • Visit to the Supreme Court by judges from the Supreme Court of the Netherlands (Ottawa)
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December 2

  • Visit to the Supreme Court by judges of the Supreme Court of Japan (Ottawa)

The Supreme Court of Canada is part of a number of international court organizations, allowing it to share best practices with, and learn from, courts in other countries. The Court and its judges welcome visitors from across Canada and around the world each year. These organizations include:

  • World Conference on Constitutional Justice
  • Asia-Pacific Judicial Colloquium
  • Association des cours constitutionnelles francophones
  • Association des hautes juridictions de cassation des pays ayant en partage l’usage du français
  • International Association of Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions

The Chief Justice’s Role

At the Court, the Chief Justice presides over hearings and oversees the administration of the Court. But the Chief Justice also has other duties outside the courtroom:

Chief Justice Wagner in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Communications and Outreach

The Supreme Court hears cases that affect all Canadians, so it’s important that its work is accessible to everyone. As part of its commitment to openness and accessibility, the Supreme Court communicates directly with the public and media.

 

In 2019, the Court...

Communications Statistics for the Court in 2019
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In 2019, the Court…

  • welcomed almost 55,000 visitors
  • reached people online almost 6 million times
    • 1,407,955 times on our website
    • 1,449,667 times on Facebook
    • 3,024,901 times on Twitter
  • published 247 news releases
  • gave 43 media briefings
  • published 43 Cases in Brief (plus two “Case Pre-Briefs” and one “Case Law in Brief”)

Connecting to the Court

To learn more about the Court and its activities, everyone can:

  • Watch hearings live on the website, go to the archives to watch them later, or listen to audio recordings by selecting “audio only”
  • Follow updates on Facebook and Twitter
  • Visit the Supreme Court of Canada to watch a hearing in person
  • Take a tour of the Court (it’s free, and we’re accessible to people with disabilities)

Justices Gascon and Kasirer.

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Caseload

Cases can come to the Supreme Court of Canada three ways. In most cases, a party has asked for leave (permission) to appeal a decision by a court of appeal. A smaller number of cases are heard “as of right,” meaning parties have a right to appeal automatically (they don’t need permission). The Court also hears “references,” which are questions that the federal government asks the Court for an opinion on.

In 2019, 552 applications for leave to appeal were given to judges to decide. The Court granted 36, or 7%. It also received 25 notices of appeal as of right. The Court didn’t receive any references in 2019. (It did receive five notices of appeal from provincial references, but these are appeals as of right at the Supreme Court.)

Chief Justice Wagner and Justice Karakatsanis arrive in the Judges' Conference Room.

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Justices Côté and Rowe in conversation in the Judges' Conference Room.

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Justices Martin and Brown preparing for a hearing in the Judges' Conference Room.

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Applications for Leave Referred for Decision

Number of Applications by Origin
From provinces, territories, or the federal level

Number of Applications by Origin; Provincial, Territorial, or Federal Court of Appeal
Description of image

This graphic shows applications for leave referred for decision by origin.

Origin Number Percentage
Ontario 167 30%
Quebec 132 24%
British Columbia 77 14%
Federal Court of Appeal 58 10%
Alberta 55 10%
Manitoba 17 3%
Saskatchewan 16 3%
Nova Scotia 11 2%
New Brunswick 6 1%
Newfoundland & Labrador 6 1%
Yukon 4 1%
Prince Edward Island 3 1%
Northwest Territories 0 0%
Nunavut 0 0%
Total 552 100%

Applications by Main Area of Law

Applications by Main Area of Law
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This pie chart shows the percentage of applications by main area of law.

Area of Law Number Percentage
Criminal Law 87 16%
Civil Procedure 80 14%
Canadian Charter (Non-criminal) 39 7%
Canadian Charter (Criminal) 31 5%
Administrative Law 30 5%
Torts 27 5%
Property Law 25 4%
Judgments and Orders 22 4%
Taxation 22 4%
Constitutional Law 21 4%
Contracts 21 4%
Courts 14 3%
Municipal Law 14 3%
Other 119 22%

 


Appeals As of Right

In 2019, 20 of 25 appeals as of right were criminal cases. Criminal appeals as of right can include court martial and youth criminal justice appeals. The Supreme Court must also automatically hear appeals about contested elections and certain competition issues and intergovernmental disputes, but didn’t have any of these in 2019.

Number of Appeals as of Right by Origin
From provinces, territories, or the federal level

Number of Appeals As of Right by Origin; Provincial, Territorial, or Federal Court of Appeal
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This graphic shows the number of appeals as of right by origin.

Origin Number Percentage
Ontario 10 40
Quebec 4 16
British Columbia 4 16
Alberta 3 12
Saskatchewan 3 12
Manitoba 1 4
New Brunswick 0 0
Nova Scotia 0 0
Northwest Territories 0 0
Prince Edward Island 0 0
Yukon 0 0
Newfoundland & Labrador 0 0
Nunavut 0 0
Federal Court of Appeal 0 0
Total 25 100

Appeals Heard

Number of Appeals Heard by Origin
From provinces, territories, or the federal level

Number of Appeals Heard by Origin ; Provincial, Territorial, or Federal Court of Appeal
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This graphic shows the number of appeals heard by origin.

Origin Number Percentage
Quebec 21 31%
Ontario 17 25%
British Columbia 8 12%
Alberta 7 10%
Manitoba 4 6%
Federal Court of Appeal 4 6%
Nova Scotia 3 4%
Newfoundland & Labrador 3 4%
Yukon 1 1%
Saskatchewan 1 1%
New Brunswick 0 0%
Northwest Territories 0 0%
Prince Edward Island 0 0%
Nunavut 0 0%
Total 69 100%

Appeals Heard by Main Area of Law

Appeals Heard by Main Area of Law
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This pie chart shows the numbers and percentage of appeals heard by main area of law.

Area of Law Number Percentage
Criminal Law 27 39%
Constitutional Law 10 15%
Torts 5 7%
Canadian Charter (Criminal) 3 4%
Canadian Charter (Non-criminal) 3 4%
Family Law 3 4%
Civil Procedure 2 3%
Contracts 2 3%
Employment Law 2 3%
Municipal Law 2 3%
Other 10 15%

Number of Applications by Origin
From provinces, territories, or the federal level

Number of Applications by Origin; Provincial, Territorial, or Federal Court of Appeal
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This graphic shows applications for leave referred for decision by origin.

Origin Number Percentage
Ontario 167 30%
Quebec 132 24%
British Columbia 77 14%
Federal Court of Appeal 58 10%
Alberta 55 10%
Manitoba 17 3%
Saskatchewan 16 3%
Nova Scotia 11 2%
New Brunswick 6 1%
Newfoundland & Labrador 6 1%
Yukon 4 1%
Prince Edward Island 3 1%
Northwest Territories 0 0%
Nunavut 0 0%
Total 552 100%

Applications by Main Area of Law

Applications by Main Area of Law
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This pie chart shows the percentage of applications by main area of law.

Area of Law Number Percentage
Criminal Law 87 16%
Civil procedure 80 14%
Canadian Charter (Non-criminal) 39 7%
Canadian Charter (Criminal) 31 5%
Administrative Law 30 5%
Torts 27 5%
Property Law 25 4%
Judgments and Orders 22 4%
Taxation 22 4%
Constitutional Law 21 4%
Contracts 21 4%
Courts 14 3%
Municipal Law 14 3%
Other 119 22%

 


 

In 2019, 20 of 25 appeals as of right were criminal cases. Criminal appeals as of right can include court martial and youth criminal justice appeals. The Supreme Court must also automatically hear appeals about contested elections and certain competition issues and intergovernmental disputes, but didn’t have any of these in 2019.

Number of Appeals as of Right by Origin
From provinces, territories, or the federal level

Number of Appeals As of Right by Origin; Provincial, Territorial, or Federal Court of Appeal
Description of image

This graphic shows the number of appeals as of right by origin.

Origin Number Percentage
Ontario 10 40
Quebec 4 16
British Columbia 4 16
Alberta 3 12
Saskatchewan 3 12
Manitoba 1 4
New Brunswick 0 0
Nova Scotia 0 0
Northwest Territories 0 0
Prince Edward Island 0 0
Yukon 0 0
Newfoundland & Labrador 0 0
Nunavut 0 0
Federal Court of Appeal 0 0
Total 25 100

 

Number of Appeals Heard by Origin
From provinces, territories, or the federal level

Number of Appeals Heard by Origin ; Provincial, Territorial, or Federal Court of Appeal
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This graphic shows the number of appeals heard by origin.

Origin Number Percentage
Quebec 21 31%
Ontario 17 25%
British Columbia 8 12%
Alberta 7 10%
Manitoba 4 6%
Federal Court of Appeal 4 6%
Nova Scotia 3 4%
Newfoundland & Labrador 3 4%
Yukon 1 1%
Saskatchewan 1 1%
New Brunswick 0 0%
Northwest Territories 0 0%
Prince Edward Island 0 0%
Nunavut 0 0%
Total 69 100%

Appeals Heard by Main Area of Law

Appeals Heard by Main Area of Law
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This pie chart shows the numbers and percentage of appeals heard by main area of law.

Area of Law Number Percentage
Criminal Law 27 39%
Constitutional Law 10 15%
Torts 5 7%
Canadian Charter (Criminal) 3 4%
Canadian Charter (Non-criminal) 3 4%
Family Law 3 4%
Civil Procedure 2 3%
Contracts 2 3%
Employment Law 2 3%
Municipal Law 2 3%
Other 10 15%
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Justices Karakatsanis and Abella.

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Decisions

Notable Decisions

All Decisions

Case Name Origin Decision Date
1 Frank v. Canada (Attorney General)* Ontario Jan. 11
2 R. v. Beaudry (Motion)

Court Martial Appeal Court Jan. 14
3 R. v. Fedyck Manitoba Jan. 15
4 S.A. v. Metro Vancouver Housing Corp. British Columbia Jan. 25
5 Orphan Well Association v. Grant Thornton Ltd* Alberta Jan. 31
6 R. v. Calnen Nova Scotia Feb. 1
7 R. v. Bird Saskatchewan Feb. 8
8 R. v. C.J. Manitoba Feb. 12
9 R. v. Blanchard Quebec Feb. 13
10 R. v. Jarvis* Ontario Feb. 14
11 R. v. Demedeiros Alberta Feb. 14
12 R. v. George-Nurse Ontario Feb. 15
13 Barer v. Knight Brothers LLC Quebec Feb. 22
14 Salomon v. Matte-Thompson Quebec Feb. 28
15 R. v. Morrison Ontario Mar. 15
16 R. v. Snelgrove Newfoundland and Labrador Mar. 22
17 R. v. Kelsie Nova Scotia Mar. 27
18 R. v. Myers* British Columbia Mar. 28
19 TELUS Communications Inc. v. Wellman Ontario Apr. 4
20 J.W. v. Canada (Attorney General)* Manitoba Apr. 12
21 R. v. Thanabalasingham Quebec Apr. 17
22 R. v. Mills Newfoundland and Labrador Apr. 18
23 R. v. D’Amico (Motion)

Quebec Apr. 11
24 R. v. J.M. Ontario Apr. 18
25 R. v. Larue Yukon Apr. 23
26 R. v. Wakefield Alberta Apr. 25
27 R. v. W.L.S. Alberta Apr. 26
28 Modern Cleaning Concept Inc. v. Comité paritaire de l’entretien d’édifices publics de la région de Québec Quebec May 3
29 Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness) v. Chhina* Alberta May 10
30 Christine DeJong Medicine Professional Corp. v. DBDC Spadina Ltd. Ontario May 14
31 Bessette v. British Columbia (Attorney General)* British Columbia May 16
32 R. v. Omar Ontario May 22
33 R. v. Barton* Alberta May 24
34 R. v. Le Ontario May 31
35 L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal v. J.J. Quebec June 7
36 Ontario (Attorney General) v. G (Motion) Ontario June 14
37 1068754 Alberta Ltd. v. Québec (Agence du revenu) Quebec June 27
38 R. v. Goldfinch Alberta June 28
39 R. v. Penunsi Newfoundland and Labrador July 5
40 R. v. Stillman Court Martial Appeal Court July 26
41 R. v. R.V. Ontario July 31
42 Pioneer Corp. v. Godfrey British Columbia Sept. 20
43 Keatley Surveying Ltd. v. Teranet Inc. Ontario Sept. 26
44 Denis v. Côté Quebec Sept. 27
45 Fleming v. Ontario* Ontario Oct. 4
46 R. v. M.R.H. British Columbia Oct. 9
47 R. v. Poulin Quebec Oct. 11
48 R. v. Kernaz Saskatchewan Oct. 18
49 R.S. v. P.R. Quebec Oct. 25
50 Threlfall v. Carleton University Quebec Oct. 31
51 R. v. Rafilovich Ontario Nov. 8
52 R. v. James Ontario Nov. 8
53 Volkswagen Group Canada Inc. v. Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique Quebec Nov. 13
54 R. v. Javanmardi Quebec Nov. 14
55 R. v. K.J.M. Alberta Nov. 15
56 R. v. Shlah Alberta Nov. 15
57 Montréal (Ville) v. Octane Stratégie inc. Quebec Nov. 22
58 Desgagnés Transport Inc. v. Wärtsilä Canada Inc. Quebec Nov. 28
59 Kosoian v. Société de transport de Montréal* Quebec Nov. 29
60 Resolute FP Canada Inc. v. Ontario (Attorney General) Ontario Dec. 6
61 International Air Transport Association v. Instrubel, N.V. Quebec Dec. 11
62 Yared v. Karam Quebec Dec. 12
63 Canada (Attorney General) v. British Columbia Investment Management Corp. British Columbia Dec. 13
64 R. v. Collin Quebec Dec. 13
65 Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov* Federal Court of Appeal Dec. 19
66 Bell Canada v. Canada (Attorney General)* Federal Court of Appeal Dec. 19
67 Canada Post Corp. v. Canadian Union of Postal Workers Federal Court of Appeal Dec. 20

* See Notable Decisions
Some decisions cover more than one case.

 

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The following sections show statistics and trends over the past decade.

Definitions:

  • As of right – an appeal where the Court’s permission isn’t needed (that is, the right is automatic).
  • By leave – an appeal that needs Court permission to be heard.
  • Leave application / application for leave to appeal – the documents filed to ask permission for an appeal to be heard.
  • Notice of appeal – the documents filed to tell the Court a party will appeal (this will be the first document filed or an “as of right” appeal, and will be filed after an application for appeal by leave is granted).
  • Granted (leave applications) – when the Court gives permission for an appeal to go forward.
  • Dismissed (leave applications) – when the Court doesn’t give permission for an appeal to go forward.
  • Allowed (appeals) – when the Court rules to overturn the lower-court decision.
  • Dismissed (appeals) – when the Court rules not to change the lower-court decision.
  • Decision – the final judgment that ends the appeal; it can be given orally (“from the bench”) or through written reasons (“reserved”). Once in a while, a decision from the bench will be followed by written reasons later.
  • On reserve – appeals that haven’t been decided yet.
  • Reasons – text where a judge (or sometimes more than one judge) explains how they arrived at a certain decision.

Chief Justice Wagner and Justice Moldaver in the Courtroom.

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Justices Brown and Rowe.

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Breakdown of Cases Filed with the Court

Types of Cases

Breakdown of Cases Filed with the Court; types of cases
Description of image

This bar graph shows the types of cases filed with the Court each year.

Year Notices of appeal as of right Applications for leave to appeal
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 24 5% 488 95%
2011 12 2% 554 98%
2012 15 3% 551 97%
2013 18 4% 490 96%
2014 16 3% 561 97%
2015 21 4% 542 96%
2016 15 3% 577 97%
2017 17 3% 526 97%
2018 26 5% 531 95%
2019 25 5% 517 95%

 



Outcomes of Leave Applications Referred for Decisions

Outcomes of Leave Applications Referred for Decision
Description of image

This graph shows the outcomes of leave applications referred for decision each year.

Year Granted Dismissed
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 55 12% 388 83%
2011 69 13% 449 83%
2012 69 12% 469 84%
2013 53 10% 456 86%
2014 50 10% 430 86%
2015 43 9% 424 88%
2016 50 8% 526 88%
2017 50 10% 426 87%
2018 41 8% 431 89%
2019 36 7% 494 89%

 



Note:

Statistics don’t include cases that were sent to a lower court, discontinued, quashed, adjourned, or where there was a request for more time that wasn’t allowed.

*There are 9 leave applications from 2019 that have not been decided.

Breakdown of Appeals Heard

Types of Appeals

Breakdown of Appeals Heard: Types of Appeals
Description of image

This bar graph shows the types of appeals heard each year.

Year As of right By leave
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 15 23% 50 77%
2011 19 27% 51 73%
2012 15 19% 63 81%
2013 12 16% 63 84%
2014 22 27% 58 73%
2015 15 24% 48 76%
2016 15 24% 48 76%
2017 17 26% 49 74%
2018 21 32% 45 68%
2019 24 35% 45 65%

 



Note:

Not all appeals heard in one year were decided in that year. Some cases were decided in the calendar year after the hearing (for example, most appeals heard in the fall of one year are decided in the winter or spring of the following year). This means statistics about appeals heard and appeals decided are slightly different.

Appeals with issues in common may be decided in a single written judgment, even if the Court hears them separately.

Outcomes of Appeals Heard

Outcomes of Appeals Heard
Description of image

This bar graph shows the outcomes of appeals heard each year.

Year Allowed Dismissed On Reserve
Number Percentage Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 28 43% 37 57% n/a n/a
2011 34 49% 35 51% n/a n/a
2012 34 44% 44 56% n/a n/a
2013 29 39% 45 61% n/a n/a
2014 35 44% 44 56% n/a n/a
2015 24 38% 39 62% n/a n/a
2016 32 51% 31 49% n/a n/a
2017 31 47% 35 53% n/a n/a
2018 35 53% 31 47% n/a n/a
2019 24 35% 23 33% 22 32%

 



Note:

Appeals aren’t counted in these statistics if there was a rehearing or remand ordered, or they were discontinued after the hearing, or they were references under s. 53 of the Supreme Court Act. (There were no situations like this in 2019.)

*There were 22 appeals “on reserve” (that hadn’t yet been decided) on December 31, 2019.

Breakdown of Decisions

Outcomes of Appeals Decided

Outcomes of Appeals Decided
Description of image

The bar graph shows the outcome of appeals decided each year.

Year Allowed Dismissed
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 29 42% 40 58%
2011 35 50% 35 50%
2012 31 37% 52 63%
2013 39 50% 39 50%
2014 23 31% 52 69%
2015 35 47% 39 53%
2016 29 51% 28 49%
2017 28 42% 39 58%
2018 33 52% 31 48%
2019 39 54% 33 46%

 



Note:

The appeals to which the judgments relate may have been heard in a previous year. Opinions on reference under s. 53 of the Supreme Court Act are not included.

Delivery of Decision

Delivery of Decision
Description of image

This bar graph shows how and when a decision on a case was delivered.

Year From the bench (oral decision right away) Reserved (written reasons later)
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 4 6% 65 94%
2011 8 11% 63 89%
2012 8 10% 75 90%
2013 9 12% 69 88%
2014 22 29% 55 71%
2015 16 22% 58 78%
2016 13 23% 44 77%
2017 19 28% 48 72%
2018 20 31% 44 69%
2019 25 35% 47 65%

 



 

Agreement on Decisions

Agreement on Decisions
Description of image

This bar graph shows the agreement of decisions.

Year Unanimous Not unanimous
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 52 75% 17 25%
2011 53 75% 18 25%
2012 60 72% 23 28%
2013 53 68% 25 32%
2014 61 79% 16 21%
2015 52 70% 22 30%
2016 35 61% 22 39%
2017 36 54% 31 46%
2018 31 48% 33 52%
2019 30 42% 42 58%

 



Note:

This refers to whether all judges agree on the outcome (the practical effect for the parties involved), not on their reasons for that outcome. A “unanimous” judgment may therefore have more than one set of reasons.

Timing

Number of Hearing Days

Number of Hearing Days
Description of image

This bar graph shows the number of hearing days.

Year Hearing Days
2010 51
2011 60
2012 65
2013 65
2014 63
2015 50
2016 53
2017 60
2018 59
2019 58



Average Time of Process Leading to Judgment (in Months)

Average Time of Process Leading to Judgment (in Months)
Description of image

This bar graph shows the average time of process leading to judgment (in months).

Year Between filing and decision on application for leave to appeal Between granting of leave (or filing of notice of appeal as of right) and hearing Between hearing and decision Total
Appeals by leave All appeals All appeals All appeals
2010 3.4 7.7 7.7 18.8
2011 4.1 8.7 6.2 19.0
2012 4.4 9.0 6.3 19.7
2013 3.3 8.2 6.2 17.7
2014 3.2 8.2 4.1 15.5
2015 4.1 7.3 5.8 17.2
2016 4.0 7.5 4.8 16.3
2017 3.8 7.4 4.6 15.8
2018 5.5 6.7 4.8 17.0
2019 4.2 6.3 5.3 15.8
Average 4.0 7.7 5.6 17.3

 



 

Types of Cases

Breakdown of Cases Filed with the Court; types of cases
Description of image

This bar graph shows the types of cases filed with the Court each year.

Year Notices of appeal as of right Applications for leave to appeal
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 24 5% 488 95%
2011 12 2% 554 98%
2012 15 3% 551 97%
2013 18 4% 490 96%
2014 16 3% 561 97%
2015 21 4% 542 96%
2016 15 3% 577 97%
2017 17 3% 526 97%
2018 26 5% 531 95%
2019 25 5% 517 95%

 



Outcomes of Leave Applications Referred for Decisions

Outcomes of Leave Applications Referred for Decision
Description of image

This graph shows the outcomes of leave applications referred for decision each year.

Year Granted Dismissed
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 55 12% 388 83%
2011 69 13% 449 83%
2012 69 12% 469 84%
2013 53 10% 456 86%
2014 50 10% 430 86%
2015 43 9% 424 88%
2016 50 8% 526 88%
2017 50 10% 426 87%
2018 41 8% 431 89%
2019 36 7% 494 89%

 



Note:

Statistics don’t include cases that were sent to a lower court, discontinued, quashed, adjourned, or where there was a request for more time that wasn’t allowed.

*There are 9 leave applications from 2019 that have not been decided.

 

Types of Appeals

Breakdown of Appeals Heard: Types of Appeals
Description of image

This bar graph shows the types of appeals heard each year.

Year As of right By leave
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 15 23% 50 77%
2011 19 27% 51 73%
2012 15 19% 63 81%
2013 12 16% 63 84%
2014 22 27% 58 73%
2015 15 24% 48 76%
2016 15 24% 48 76%
2017 17 26% 49 74%
2018 21 32% 45 68%
2019 24 35% 45 65%

 



Note:

Not all appeals heard in one year were decided in that year. Some cases were decided in the calendar year after the hearing (for example, most appeals heard in the fall of one year are decided in the winter or spring of the following year). This means statistics about appeals heard and appeals decided are slightly different.

Appeals with issues in common may be decided in a single written judgment, even if the Court hears them separately.

Outcomes of Appeals Heard

Outcomes of Appeals Heard
Description of image

This bar graph shows the outcomes of appeals heard each year.

Year Allowed Dismissed On Reserve
Number Percentage Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 28 43% 37 57% n/a n/a
2011 34 49% 35 51% n/a n/a
2012 34 44% 44 56% n/a n/a
2013 29 39% 45 61% n/a n/a
2014 35 44% 44 56% n/a n/a
2015 24 38% 39 62% n/a n/a
2016 32 51% 31 49% n/a n/a
2017 31 47% 35 53% n/a n/a
2018 35 53% 31 47% n/a n/a
2019 24 35% 23 33% 22 32%


Note:

Appeals aren’t counted in these statistics if there was a rehearing or remand ordered, or they were discontinued after the hearing, or they were references under s. 53 of the Supreme Court Act. (There were no situations like this in 2019.)

*There were 22 appeals “on reserve” (that hadn’t yet been decided) on December 31, 2019.

 

Outcomes of Appeals Decided

Outcomes of Appeals Decided
Description of image

The bar graph shows the outcome of appeals decided each year.

Year Allowed Dismissed
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 29 42% 40 58%
2011 35 50% 35 50%
2012 31 37% 52 63%
2013 39 50% 39 50%
2014 23 31% 52 69%
2015 35 47% 39 53%
2016 29 51% 28 49%
2017 28 42% 39 58%
2018 33 52% 31 48%
2019 39 54% 33 46%

 



Note:

The appeals to which the judgments relate may have been heard in a previous year. Opinions on reference under s. 53 of the Supreme Court Act are not included.

Delivery of Decision

Delivery of Decision
Description of image

This bar graph shows how and when a decision on a case was delivered.

Year From the bench (oral decision right away) Reserved (written reasons later)
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 4 6% 65 94%
2011 8 11% 63 89%
2012 8 10% 75 90%
2013 9 12% 69 88%
2014 22 29% 55 71%
2015 16 22% 58 78%
2016 13 23% 44 77%
2017 19 28% 48 72%
2018 20 31% 44 69%
2019 25 35% 47 65%

 



 

Agreement on Decisions

Agreement on Decisions
Description of image

This bar graph shows the agreement of decisions.

Year Unanimous Not unanimous
Number Percentage Number Percentage
2010 52 75% 17 25%
2011 53 75% 18 25%
2012 60 72% 23 28%
2013 53 68% 25 32%
2014 61 79% 16 21%
2015 52 70% 22 30%
2016 35 61% 22 39%
2017 36 54% 31 46%
2018 31 48% 33 52%
2019 30 42% 42 58%

 



Note:

This refers to whether all judges agree on the outcome (the practical effect for the parties involved), not on their reasons for that outcome. A “unanimous” judgment may therefore have more than one set of reasons.

 

Number of Hearing Days

Number of Hearing Days
Description of image

This bar graph shows the number of hearing days.

Year Hearing Days
2010 51
2011 60
2012 65
2013 65
2014 63
2015 50
2016 53
2017 60
2018 59
2019 58



Average Time of Process Leading to Judgment (in Months)

Average Time of Process Leading to Judgment (in Months)
Description of image

This bar graph shows the average time of process leading to judgment (in months).

Year Between filing and decision on application for leave to appeal Between granting of leave (or filing of notice of appeal as of right) and hearing Between hearing and decision Total
Appeals by leave All appeals All appeals All appeals
2010 3.4 7.7 7.7 18.8
2011 4.1 8.7 6.2 19.0
2012 4.4 9.0 6.3 19.7
2013 3.3 8.2 6.2 17.7
2014 3.2 8.2 4.1 15.5
2015 4.1 7.3 5.8 17.2
2016 4.0 7.5 4.8 16.3
2017 3.8 7.4 4.6 15.8
2018 5.5 6.7 4.8 17.0
2019 4.2 6.3 5.3 15.8
Average 4.0 7.7 5.6 17.3

 



 

Decorative image

Chief Justice Wagner and Justices Karakatsanis and Abella in the Judges' Conference Room before a hearing.

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All photos (except as mentioned below): Supreme Court of Canada Collection

Photo credits for the following sections:

  • Judges of the SCC: Justices Abella and Côté – Philippe Landreville, photographer, Justice Karakatsanis – Jessica Deeks Photography, Justices Gascon, Brown, and Rowe – Andrew Balfour Photography
  • Accord to Strengthen the Independence of the SCC: Ivstitia - Cochrane Photography
  • #SCCinWinnipeg: Calgary Flames @ Winnipeg Jets - True North Sports + Entertainment
  • The Court in Canada...: December 5 - Senate of Canada
  • ....and in the World: July 8-9: Supreme Court of the United Kingdom | October 22-23: Embassy of Canada to Japan
  • The Chief Justice's Role: Shannon VanRaes/Winnipeg Free Press

The judges in the Judges’ Conference Room, where deliberations take place.

Decorative image