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The Canadian Legal System

Course Code: CRIM 1160
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Criminology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

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 reception and 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, Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), Constitution Act, 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, procedural 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

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.

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%

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.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.