Curriculum Guideline

The Canadian Legal System

Effective Date:
Course Code
CRIM 1160
The Canadian Legal System
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 4 hrs. per week / semester
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:  lectures, audio-visual material, group work, library research, guest lectures, seminars and presentations.

Course Description
This course focuses on the history, development, and present day operation of the Canadian legal system. The topics that will be examined include: constitutional law; criminal, contract, and tort law; human rights; administrative law; the court system; the functions of judges and lawyers; and the basic elements of legal reasoning.
Course Content
  1. The Nature of Law
    • Why we have laws, legal philosophy
  2. Introduction to the Legal System
    • Main divisions of law, how to read and cite cases and statutes, the court structures
  3. Sources of Law
    • Historical sources, legal sources, constitutional sources, the legislative process
  4. British Legal Tradition
    • The Canadian acceptance of this tradition, the basis of our constitutional system, the rule of law, parliamentary sovereignty, common law and equity.
  5. The Constitution
    • BNA Act, Statue of Westminster, The Canada Act, The Constitution Act of 1982, Quebec Legal System.   
    • Constitutional change, Meech Lake Accord, Charlottetown Accord, Quebec Referendum, First Nations Treaties
  6. Canadian Legal Institutions
    • The courts, the role of judges and lawyers
  7. The Basic Elements of Legal Reasoning
    • Precedent and Stare Decisis
    • The process of distinguishing
    • Statutory interpretation
  8. Introduction to Administrative Law
    • Tribunals, principles of natural justice and fairness, federal and provincial rule making agencies
  9. The Nature of Tort Law
    • Definition of torts, distinction between tort and crime, categories of torts, the principle of vicarious liability, remedies for tort actions.
  10. The Law of Contract
    • Elements of a contract, remedies for breach of contract
  11. Law Reform
    • alternative methods of dispute resolution, court reforms
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:


  1. Define the major philosophies of law.
  2. Identify how the legal system derives its authority and legitimacy.
  3. Describe the historical development of Canadian law.
  4. Discuss the Canadian Constitution, Canadian legal institutions and the role of judges and lawyers.
  5. Describe how law is made and changed.
  6. Describe administrative law, tort law, and contract law.
  7. Conduct legal research.
  8. Discuss the basic elements of legal reasoning.
Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester.  Evaluation will include some of the following:

  1. Quizzes
  2. Mixed format exams (e.g. multiple choice, essay)
  3. Term papers
  4. Research project
  5. Class participation
  6. Oral presentations


An example of an evaluation scheme would be:

Legal Research Assignment           10%
Midterm exam  30%
Term Paper  30%
Final exam  30%
Total 100%
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students:

Texts will be updated periodically. Typical examples are:


Boyd, Neil.  (2002).  Canadian Law, An Introduction, (3rd ed.).  Toronto:  Nelson Thomson Learning.


Gall, G.  (2004).  The Canadian Legal System, (5th ed.).  Toronto: Carswell.


Olivo, Laurence (2009)  Introduction to Law in Canada  (custom ed.). Concord. Captus Press.


Yates, Richard, Yates, Ruth & Bain, Penny.  (1999).  Introduction to Law in Canada, (2nd ed.).  Scarborough:             Prentice-Hall Canada Inc.

Which Prerequisite