Supreme Court of British Columbia

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Supreme Court of British Columbia
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Coat of Arms
LocationCariboo; Kootenay; Nanaimo; Prince Rupert; Vancouver; Victoria; New Westminster; and Yale
Authorized bySupreme Court Act, 1996
Number of positions102
WebsiteSupreme Court
Chief Justice
CurrentlyChristopher E. Hinkson
SinceNovember, 2013

The Supreme Court of British Columbia (BCSC) is the superior trial court for the province of British Columbia, Canada. The BCSC hears civil and criminal law cases as well as appeals from the Provincial Court of British Columbia. There are 90 judicial positions on the BCSC bench in addition to supernumary judges, making for a grand total of 108 judges.[1] There are also 13 Supreme Court masters who hear and dispose of a wide variety of applications in chambers.[2]

The court was established in 1859 as the "Supreme Court of the Mainland of British Columbia" to distinguish it from the "Supreme Court of Vancouver Island". The two courts merged in 1870 under the present name.[3]


The BCSC is a court of record, having original jurisdiction in all cases, civil and criminal, arising in British Columbia. The BCSC has inherent jurisdiction under the Constitution of Canada in addition to any jurisdiction granted to it by federal or provincial statute.

The BCSC has jurisdiction in any civil dispute, including those matters where the dollar amount involved is within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims division of the Provincial Court. Under the Criminal Code, the BCSC is included as a "superior court of criminal jurisdiction", meaning that it has exclusive jurisdiction for the trial of serious crimes within British Columbia.

The BCSC also hears appeals from the Provincial Court and some administrative tribunals. Appeals from its own judgments are heard by the Court of Appeal of British Columbia.

The BCSC is also responsible for call ceremonies for admitting lawyers and notaries public where the respective oath of office is administered by a justice.[4][5]

Justices and masters[edit]

All justices of the BCSC (including the position of Chief Justice and Associate Chief Justice) are appointed by the federal cabinet, on recommendation of the Minister of Justice. All BCSC justices have full jurisdiction over any matter before the BCSC.

It is court protocol to refer to BCSC judges as "justices", and in court (until 2021) to address to justices as "my Lord" or "my Lady," unlike in the Provincial Court (and the now-abolished County Court) where the term "judge" is used and the mode of address is (and was) "your Honour." As of 2021, by directive of the Chief Justice, the terms "my Lord" and "my Lady" are to be avoided. Rather, Justices are addressed as "Chief Justice", "Associate Chief Justice", "Justice", "Madam Justice" or "Mr. Justice" as context requires.

Masters are appointed by the provincial cabinet, on recommendation of the Attorney General in consultation with the Chief Justice. As provincial appointees, masters do not have inherent jurisdiction. Their jurisdiction is limited to those matters granted to them by statute and the Rules of Court. Masters preside in chambers, where they usually hear interlocutory applications and other pre-trial matters. Masters cannot hear civil trials and do not preside in criminal matters. In court, Masters were formerly addressed as "Master," but in a practice direction issued on September 6, 1991, then Chief Justice Esson advised the most appropriate form of address would be "your Honour". Masters also sit and hear matters as registrars, hearing such matters as assessments of solicitors fees and accounts.

Judicial districts[edit]

The British Columbia Supreme Court sits in eight judicial districts called "counties". This is the only usage of "county" in British Columbia, which is a reference only to such court districts and has no similarity to the meaning in other provinces of Canada, the United States or United Kingdom. Prior to 1990, there existed in British Columbia a County Court, an intermediate court between the Provincial Court and the BCSC. In 1990, the County Court of B.C. merged with the BCSC and its judges became justices of the BCSC. The judicial districts of the Supreme Court have the same boundaries of the counties of the former County Court.[6]

The judicial districts are: Cariboo; Kootenay; Nanaimo; Prince Rupert; Vancouver; Victoria; Westminster; and Yale. The Counties of Vancouver and Westminster are collectively one judicial district under the name of the "Vancouver Westminster Judicial District".[7] Within each county, or judicial district, justices are resident in the following locations:

The BCSC also holds sittings in the following court locations for which there is not a resident justice:[6]

Chief Justices of the Supreme Court[edit]

Prior to 1909, when the British Columbia Court of Appeal was established, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was considered the Chief Justice of British Columbia.

Name[8] Duration
Christopher E. Hinkson 2013–present
Robert James Bauman 2009–2013
Donald Ian Brenner 2000–2009
Bryan Williams 1996–2000
William A. Esson 1989–1996
Beverley McLachlin (afterwards Chief Justice of Canada, 2000–2017) 1988–1989
Allan McEachern (afterwards Chief Justice of BC Court of Appeal, 1988) 1979–1988
Nathaniel Nemetz (afterwards Chief Justice of BC Court of Appeal, 1979) 1973–1979
John Owen Wilson 1963–1973
Sherwood Lett (afterwards Chief Justice of BC Court of Appeal, 1963) 1955–1963
Wendell Burpee Farris (died 1955) 1942–1955
Aulay MacAulay Morrison 1929–1942
Gordon Hunter 1902–1929
Angus John McColl 1898–1902
Theodore Davie 1895–1898
Matthew Baillie Begbie (incumbent Chief Justice of the Colony of British Columbia at the time B.C. joined Canada) 1869–1894

Associate Chief Justices of the Supreme Court[edit]

Name[8] Duration
Heather J. Holmes 2018–present
Austin F. Cullen 2011–2017
Anne W. MacKenzie 2010–2011
Patrick D. Dohm 1995–2010


  2. ^ "BC Supreme Court "About us"". Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  3. ^ The Laws of British Columbia: Consisting of the Acts, Ordinances. p. 112.
  4. ^ Call and Admission to the Bar
  5. ^ Information on Becoming aBC Notary Public
  6. ^ a b "Supreme Court - Court Locations and Contacts". The Courts of British Columbia. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  7. ^ British Columbia Supreme Court Act.
  8. ^ a b "Supreme Court - Members of the Supreme Court". Retrieved August 15, 2018.

External links[edit]