Section 92(14) of the Constitution Act, 1867, also known as the administration of justice power, grants the provincial legislatures of Canada the authority to legislate on:
It has been considered to be one of the major sources of conflict concerning the interpretation of the Constitution of Canada.
In United Kingdom jurisprudence, the administration of justice is generally considered to include the following matters:
- the organisation of the courts;
- the prerogative of justice, the prerogative of mercy, and any prerogative power to create new courts;
- nolle prosequi;
- the appointment, tenure and immunity of judges;
- the immunity of other participants in legal proceedings;
- contempt of court;
- the composition and availability of juries, any requirement that their verdict be unanimous, and the allowances they receive;
- the branches of the legal profession; and
- the provision of legal aid and advice.
However, the Constitution Act, 1867 divides the responsibility between the federal and provincial jurisdictions. Together with the grant under s. 92(14), s. 91(27) carves out "Procedure in Criminal Matters," while s. 96 requires the appointment of "the Judges of the Superior, District, and County Courts in each Province" to be done by the Governor General in Council, and s. 101 grants the Parliament of Canada the power to provide "for the Establishment of any additional Courts for the better Administration of the Laws of Canada."
Within the Canadian constitutional context, it has been held that provincial jurisdiction includes matters concerning law enforcement (including the appointment, control and discipline of police officers), the establishment of facilities necessary for the enforcement of criminal law, and public inquiries on how the power is executed.
In R v Wetmore, Dickson J (as he then was) observed:
In that regard, "investigation must be in accordance with federally prescribed criminal procedure and not otherwise." Therefore, police officers are able to enforce the Criminal Code because they are designated as peace officers under it. As well, Canadian National Transportation and Wetmore have held that prosecution falls within criminal procedure, and that it can be pursued by either federal or provincial prosecutors. In a similar fashion, a Quebec measure that diverted young people from the criminal justice system was held to be unconstitutional, as it confliced with the Juvenile Delinquents Act.
There is no bright line test as to what falls within the area of criminal procedure, as Dickson J conceded in Di Iorio v Warden of the Montreal Jail:
In R v Hauser, Spence J later gave a more succinct explanation:
Therefore, federal jurisdiction applies to how investigations and prosecutions may proceed, but not whether or when to conduct them.
The Parliament of Canada can confer "new duties upon the existing Provincial Courts, or to give them new powers, as to matters which do not come within the classes of subjects assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces." By extension, measures such as the trial of federal election petitions and insolvency proceedings will fall outside the scope of s. 92(14).
Because of s. 96, the provinces are restricted in how they can remove disputes from the jurisdiction of the courts. However, such jurisdiction has been held not to be "fixed forever as it stood at the date of Confederation," and a key question to be asked is whether an adjudication is to take place "between Crown and subject or between subject and subject." A negative answer would stand in favour of an administrative body's ability to act.
Under the Residential Tenancies case, a three-part test has been devised to determine whether unconstitutional encroachment has occurred:
- consideration, in the light of the historical conditions existing in 1867, of the particular power or jurisdiction conferred upon the tribunal;
- consideration of the function within its institutional setting to determine whether the function itself is different when viewed in that setting; and
- if the power or jurisdiction is exercised in a judicial manner, then it becomes necessary to review the tribunal’s function as a whole in order to appraise the impugned function in its entire institutional context.
If, after such review, the adjudication powers are determined to be "merely subsidiary or ancillary to general administrative functions assigned to the tribunal," or "necessarily incidental to the achievement of a broader policy goal of the legislature," then such powers are constitutionally valid.
The Federal Courts Act grants the Federal Court concurrent jurisdiction with the provincial courts in various matters concerning federal law, together with exclusive original jurisdiction for:
- issues which "the Crown and any person" have agreed in writing to submit to the Federal Court;
- applications for relief against "any federal board, commission or other tribunal" (including any proceeding brought against the Attorney General of Canada);
- applications for writs "in relation to any member of the Canadian Forces serving outside Canada;"
- applications for judicial review concerning "a decision or an order of a federal board, commission or other tribunal;"
- where the Legislative Assembly of a province has passed assenting legislation, controversies between Canada and a province, or between a province and any other province that has passed similar legislation;
- issues concerning applications or registrations of intellectual property;
- reliefs or remedies not available through any other court; and
- any matter, "not allocated specifically to the Federal Court of Appeal," in which an Act of the Parliament of Canada has granted jurisdiction.
Even within such matters of exclusive jurisdiction, it has been held that provincial courts are not prevented from ruling on the constitutionality of federal laws, as:
This has also been held to encompass determining the applicability of federal legislation, as "both relate to constitutional jurisdiction," while the federal courts have similar jurisdiction in such matters.