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Home Centennial College Blog 2018 December 4 Don’t be fooled again: Six important ways Canadian law is different from the US

Don’t be fooled again: Six important ways Canadian law is different from the US

If you’re looking to enter the Canadian legal world and get straight to work, Centennial College’s single-year Paralegal program offers you a quick, convenient way to get that education, combined with practical experience, and start into a career in Canadian law. Before you enter that world, though, you need to make sure you understand Canadian law properly. Thanks to how many crime investigation TV shows, like CSI and Law and Order, come out of America, a lot of Canadians are probably more familiar with how US law works. On one hand, it’s true that a lot of day-to-day procedures are the same in America and Canada because both countries based their laws on English common law. But our country’s a bit different, and as a paralegal, you’ll need to be well-versed in these differences. Here are some of those differences, sourced from Narcity, PSU and QDT.

Rights for groups, in addition to individuals

American law considers individual rights very important, and it’s the same in Canada. But in addition to those rights, Canada’s Charter of Right and Freedoms also includes additional “group rights” for certain protected groups, something that doesn’t really exist in the US. The French Canadian populations in Quebec and New Brunswick, for example, have special linguistic and cultural rights. Meanwhile, there are also special rights in Canada for Aboriginal groups.

Fewer Jury trials

This is a pretty basic one. In Canada, trials before juries are typically saved for criminal cases. In the US, juries are used more often, including on non-criminal cases that, in this country, would typically simply go before a judge.

Employee-friendly employment law

In America, there’s the legal concept of “employment at will.” In other words, employees can be fired without reason or notice. Broadly speaking, it doesn’t generally work that way in Canada, where employees need either a reason for dismissal, advance notice, or both.

Same-sex marriage is more universal

Back in 2005, Canada passed a law that made it the fourth country in the world to federally legalize same-sex marriage. While some individual states in the US had it in law, it wasn’t a country-wide policy until 2015, and it was a slower rollout, due to a combination of state rulings and legislation. Speaking of that…

Canadian criminal law is uniform across the country

Canada possesses a single federal criminal code that applies to every single province and territory. The US, for contrast, has different laws from state-to-state, leading to the kind of jurisdictional clashes you’ll sometimes see on those crime TV shows, which doesn’t really happen here.

Canadian law is done in the name of royalty

In America, prosecutors officially act in the name of “the people,” hence many trials (and movies and books) are referred to “the people versus” someone or something. Meanwhile, Canadian prosecutors act in the name of “the Crown.” It’s a tiny distinction, but it speaks to how our country works. While we’re still an independent nation, Canada’s chosen to have the British monarchy as our sovereign. Another little side effect of this? Canadian lawyers don’t call the judge “your honour,” but instead say “my lord.” 

By Anthony Geremia