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Supreme Court of British Columbia
Coat of Arms of the Supreme Court [1]
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 is the superior trial court for the province of British Columbia, Canada. The Court hears civil and criminal law cases as well as appeals from the Provincial Court of British Columbia. There are 90 judicial positions on the Court in addition to supernumerary judges, making for a grand total of 108 judges.[2] There are also 13 Supreme Court masters, who hear and dispose of a wide variety of applications in chambers.[3]

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.[4]


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

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

The Supreme Court is also responsible for call ceremonies for admitting lawyers and notaries public where the respective oath of office is administered by a justice.[5][6]

Justices and masters

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

It is court protocol to refer to the judges of the Court as "justices". Prior to 2021, justices in the court were addressed as "my Lord" or "my Lady". 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

The Supreme Court sits in eight judicial districts called "counties". That 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 Supreme Court. In 1990, the County Court was merged with the Supreme Court, and its judges became justices of the Supreme Court. The judicial districts of the Supreme Court have the same boundaries of the counties of the former County Court.[7] The judicial districts are: Cariboo; Kootenay; Nanaimo; Prince Rupert; Vancouver Westminster; Victoria; and Yale.[8] Within each county, or judicial district, justices are resident in the following locations:

The Supreme Court also holds sittings in the following court locations for which there is not a resident justice:[7]

Chief Justices of the Supreme Court

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[9] 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

Name[9] Duration
Heather J. Holmes 2018–present
Austin F. Cullen 2011–2017
Anne W. MacKenzie 2010–2011
Patrick D. Dohm 1995–2010


  1. ^ The Court continues to use the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom to identify itself, though the colony joined Canada as a province in 1871.
  3. ^ "BC Supreme Court "About us"". Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  4. ^ The Laws of British Columbia: Consisting of the Acts, Ordinances. p. 112.
  5. ^ Call and Admission to the Bar
  6. ^ Information on Becoming aBC Notary Public
  7. ^ a b "Supreme Court - Court Locations and Contacts". The Courts of British Columbia. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  8. ^ Supreme Court Act, RSBC 1996, c. 443, s. 8(1).
  9. ^ a b "Supreme Court - Members of the Supreme Court". Retrieved August 15, 2018.

Further reading