Single-Level Trial Court
With the exception of Nunavut, all Canadian jurisdictions have three levels of court. The first level consists of provincial or territorial courts. These courts are created by provincial or territorial laws, which define the scope of the courts' authority. The next level consists of superior or supreme courts. These courts are created by the Constitution and have what is known as "inherent jurisdiction." This means they have authority to hear any type of matter that is not specifically assigned to another level of court. The third level of court consists of the courts of appeal, which hear appeals from the lower courts' decisions.
Prior to 1999, the Northwest Territory (NWT) had a Territorial and Supreme Court, similar to the system in place in the rest of Canada. However, after significant consultation with community groups, lawyers, Judges, Justices of the Peace, and community members, it was decided that in a territory the size of Nunavut, it makes sense for all Judges to have the ability to hear any type of case. Therefore, the Nunavut Court of Justice was created as a single-level trial court on April 1st, 1999 as a result of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. It is Canada's first, and only, single-level court.
The legal authority for the Nunavut Court of Justice is as follows:
An Act to amend the Nunavut Act with respect to the Nunavut Court of Justice and to amend other Acts in consequence, S.C. 1999, c. 3.
This Act conveys to the Nunavut Court of Justice all of the powers, duties and functions formerly exercised by the NWT Supreme and Territorial Courts. The Act also addresses appeals, bail, elections, preliminary inquiries, statutory review, and young offenders' proceedings in the Nunavut Court of Justice.
The Nunavut Judicial System Implementation Act, S.N.W.T. 1998, c. 34.
This enacts a new Judicature Act and a new Justices of the Peace Act for Nunavut and repeals the Territorial Court Act effective April 1, 1999. It establishes the composition, powers and officers of the Nunavut Court of Justice and Court of Appeal and designates the Youth Justice Court of Nunavut. This Act also states certain rules of law and procedure for Nunavut cases.