Interesting Facts about Supreme Court of Canada

  • The Supreme Court of Canada was created by an Act of Parliament in 1875 as a general court of appeal.
  • The Court sat for the first time on January 17, 1876, but did not have any cases to hear. It heard its first case in April of that year.
  • The Court was originally composed of a Chief Justice and five puisne or associate judges. Today, the court is composed of a Chief Justice and eight puisne or associate judges.
  • Puisne judge: The word “puisne” is an old French word meaning younger. This term, used by the Supreme Court, distinguishes the Chief Justice from the other eight judges.
  • For years, Supreme Court decisions could be appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England. The right of appeal was abolished for criminal cases in 1933, and in all other cases in 1949.
  • The original Supreme Court of Canada was housed in a building located at the corner of Wellington and Bank Streets in Ottawa. The building had been the stables of Parliament before being converted into the Supreme Court building.
  • There are two flagstaffs at the front of the Supreme Court building. The Canadian flag to the west is hoisted daily, while the flag to the east only flies when the Court is sitting.
  • The current Supreme Court building was designed by Montreal architect Ernest Cormier, who also designed the University of Montreal, the Government Printing Bureau in Gatineau and the Quebec Court of Appeal in Montreal.
  • The cornerstone of the Court building is dated May 19, 1939, and was supposed to be laid by King George VI. Queen Elizabeth laid the cornerstone in the presence of the King, her husband, on May 20, 1939. (The arrival of their ship was delayed by a day due to bad weather on the Atlantic Ocean.)
  • The Supreme Court of Canada receives between 550 and 650 applications for leave to appeal every year and hears around 80 appeals.

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