Provincial Court vs. Court of Queen’s Bench: What’s the Difference?

This is a follow up to our Facebook post earlier this week about the increase in the value of claims that may be decided by the Provincial Court (Civil) of Alberta (sometimes referred to as “Small Claims” Court). If you saw that post, you may know that the Provincial Court civil claim limits have increased from $25,000 to $50,000.

However, you may also be curious about some of the key differences between the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. The purpose of this post is to highlight some (but by no means all) of the differences.

Provincial Court of Alberta – Some Things to Know

  • The Provincial Court of Alberta  is created by the Provincial Court Act of Alberta. This statute confirms the Court’s jurisdiction. Unlike the Court of Queen’s Bench (which is a Court of general jurisdiction), the Provincial Court can only hear and decide matters that fall within the scope of its jurisdiction as outlined in the statute.
  • As outlined above, for civil matters, the Court can only deal with claims up to $50,000 in value.
  • The Provincial Court of Alberta has the power to deal with criminal, family and civil matters.
    • The judicial officials in the Provincial Court are “Judges” and are addressed as “Your Honour” (Sir or Madam are also acceptable).
  • In the Provincial Court, a party can represent him or herself, be represented by a non-lawyer agent, or by a lawyer.
  • The Alberta “Rules of Court” do not need to be followed in the Provincial Court.
  • Many, but not all, family law matters can be dealt with in the Provincial Court. For example, the Provincial Court cannot grant a divorce judgment, an adoption order, or an order for the exclusive possession of a family home.
  • Decisions of a Judge of the Provincial Court may, in most cases, be appealed to a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench.

The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta – Some Things to Know

  • The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta , being a court of general jurisdiction, has the ability to hear and decide all matters that are not expressly excluded from its jurisdiction. This includes criminal, civil and family law matters.
  • In the Court of Queen’s Bench, the judicial officials are: “Justices” who are addressed as “My Lord” or “My Lady” (Sir or Madam are also acceptable); or “Masters”, who are addressed as “Master” (Sir or Madam are also acceptable).
  • Whether a matter will be heard before a Justice or Master depends on the nature of the decision to be made. Justices can deal with all matters. Masters deal mostly with procedural and other specialty matters (such as foreclosures or bankruptcy).
  • In the Court of Queen’s Bench, a party can represent him or herself, or be represented by a lawyer. A party cannot be represented by a non-lawyer agent. However, note that corporations cannot represent themselves and must have a lawyer.
  • The Alberta “Rules of Court” are required to be followed in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
  • The Court of Queen’s Bench has the power to deal with all family law matters, including granting a divorce judgment, an adoption order, or granting an order for exclusive possession of a home.
  • Some civil remedies (such as injunctions) are only available in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
  • Decisions of a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench may be appealed, in most cases, to the Court of Appeal of Alberta.

The above is just a short list of some of the key differences. There are many. If have a legal matter and you are thinking about representing yourself or you are unsure about what Court would be appropriate, contact us. In addition to providing comprehensive legal services in either Court environment, we offer limited scope (often called “unbundled”) legal services which allow parties to represent themselves with flexible amounts of help

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *