Law is a systematic system of rules developed and enforced by governmental or civic organizations to legally regulate behavior in civil society, with its exact definition having been a matter of prolonged debate. It can be defined as the study and practice of justice, especially ethical standards. It is used in all areas of human life including criminal law. Criminal law deals with offenses against the state, its citizens and property. Civil law is the area of law that deals with disputes between private parties. In the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and Canada, there are seven federal courts and a dozen common law courts.
Civil law courts provide a venue for resolving disputes involving associations of individuals, businesses and the government. The major areas of jurisdiction are: family law, corporate law, foreclosure law, probate law, personal injury law, real property law, professional negligence law, immigration law, child support law and marriage law. There are also specialized courts dealing with certain issues such as torture, war crimes, and hate crimes. In Canada, there are the Divorce Papers, Family Law Courts and the Children’s Court. There are special courts established to deal with issues that are not criminal in nature, such as family disputes that concern child custody, access to land and money, and issues that concern aboriginal rights. Civil law also includes a number of common law traditions that are used as grounds for litigations, including common law marriage, customary law, trusts, deeds, and powers of attorney.
In contrast to the United States, where there is a separation of the federal government and the states, in Canada there is a strong central government that exercises absolute power over the provinces. Unlike the US, Canada has a written Constitution that explicitly gives the provinces the power to govern themselves. This, in turn, gives Canadian provinces greater leeway to develop their own criminal laws, which, unlike in the US, are more liberal by American standards. Many of the same Constitutional provisions that guide the Canadian Constitution also guide the civil law.
Canada’s Constitution does not have a provision for a national legislature, so the laws that it adopts are not directly applicable in other countries, including the US. However, the existence of the Constitution provides a benchmark for interpreting civil law in Canada. It provides guidance for the operation of the courts, the administration of justice, the formulation of rules of procedure, and the scope of legislation. The interpretation of the Canadian Constitution depends on both the federal government and provincial governments, and is therefore a very complex area of law.
Some laws that affect Canadian citizens are based on natural law, which is generally referred to as universal law or customary law. Natural law is the body of laws that guides all interaction between humans, and which can be traced back to ancient societies such as those of the Mayans, Egyptians and Aztecs. Some natural laws, including notions of moral right and wrong, private property, cruelty and property theft, and even the right of self-expression, have universal significance for all people. These concepts are considered intuitive, and some legal theories that support them are called “common law”. Most laws that affect Canadian citizens are derived from the common law, and most common law decisions are also reflected in Canadian constitutional law. Many aspects of Canadian law are the product of common law, including judicial interpretation of cases, the power of the legislature, issues of family law and criminal law, and commercial law such as trademark and patent law.
Many of the most important pieces of Canadian law are considered to be federalist, as they are part of the system of nation-wide laws and devises by the federal government rather than being controlled by a single body. Federal laws are designed to address many pressing concerns, such as the security of Canada, the maintenance of the economy, maintaining international trade, preserving the environment, and providing social services. A unique feature of Canada’s system of laws is that there are numerous government agencies and bureaus that operate in parallel with each other, and all of these bodies contribute to the making of Canadian law. These parallel agencies or offices include the justice system, the tax office, the national police force, the Canadian Transportation Agency, and various tribunals, among others.