The role of Judges and Justices of the Peace

Region: Ontario Answer # 713

The role of Judges

In Canada, judges are appointed by either the provincial government or the federal government, they are never elected. They are the masters of the courtroom and their role is to interpret and apply the law. They are there to keep order in the court and rule on the evidence presented to them. They hear motions, oversee jury trials, or sit in judgment of cases without juries. They can also sit as a panel or group to hear appeals of lower court cases.

Judicial powers

Judges can uphold laws or strike them down as unconstitutional. They are responsible for setting the rules governing the court and the matters before them. Their jurisdiction to hear a case depends on the matter at issue.

Provincially-appointed judge

Provincial court judges are limited to hearing provincial and summary conviction offences and have jurisdiction over certain matters of family law. Generally, provincially appointed judges do not hear cases involving litigation between private parties.

Federally-appointed judge

Federally appointed judges tend to hear cases where more is at stake in terms of crime and hear matters involving indictments. They are also responsible for civil litigation of commercial disputes and private litigation over things like libel, negligence, administrative law involving federal institutions, and contractual disputes.

The role of Justices of the Peace

A justice of the peace, commonly referred to as a JP, is the judicial officer with whom the public usually has the first and often only contact. They have province-wide jurisdiction and preside over more than 90% of cases involving provincial offences, including complex environmental and industrial safety cases.


Justices of the peace have a broad range of powers. They rule on municipal by-law infractions and hear cases about minor traffic and parking infractions. They can also receive private information from members of the public who wish to lay criminal charges against another person.

They issue summonses and arrest warrants for those accused to appear before the court to defend themselves or give evidence. They preside at bail hearings and can set the terms of the release of an accused. A justice of the peace can also order a mental health assessment and issue child apprehension warrants.

Get help

Canada’s federal and provincial laws and procedures can be complex. To get help, ask a lawyer now.


You now have 3 options:

Request permission for your organization to copy information from this website.

Page loaded. Thank you