Canada: How To Decide If Court Of Queen's Bench Or Provincial Court Is Best For Your Claim

It has been nearly a year since the financial limit for lawsuits in the Provincial Court of Alberta (Civil Division) (the proper name for Alberta's "small claims court") increased from $25,000 to $50,000. The higher limit has allowed more Albertans to litigate proportionally larger claims in the more accessible and cost-effective forum of Provincial Court.

In fact, the increased financial limits have proven so effective that there are plans to again double the Provincial Court limit for civil claims. Bill 16, the Statutes Amendment Act, received royal assent on March 30, 2015 and gives the Lieutenant Governor in Council the authority to increase the Provincial Court limit up to $100,000. However, until the sections dealing with the further increase to the Provincial Court financial limits are proclaimed by our new government, and the new Lieutenant Governor in Council exercises that authority, the $50,000 limit remains the law.

The Statutes Amendment Act also permits the Provincial Court to stream civil claims into 'resolution tracks', which are intended to help resolve civil claims before trial. It is not known what, if any, similarity the 'resolution tracks' will have to the current system, which directs most matters to a mandatory mediation or a pre-trial conference prior to trial.

As the financial jurisdiction of the Provincial Court expands, it becomes more and more alluring to parties who are unable to or uninterested in complying with more robust (and expensive) procedural requirements of the Court of Queen's Bench. However, remember that there are still key differences between the Court of Queen's Bench and the Provincial Court. Understanding these differences is essential to deciding where to bring your claim. A summary of the key differences is as follows:

Queen's Bench

  • Unlike Provincial Court, the Court of Queen's Bench has no financial limits. This means that parties with claims in excess of the Provincial Court limit must file in the Court of Queen's Bench, unless they are prepared to waive their claim for any amount in excess of the Provincial Court limit.
  • Parties who decide to bring a claim in Court of Queen's Bench, even though the amount claimed and the subject-matter fall within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court, should be aware that their costs award may be reduced by 25% or more. This further encourages parties to utilize the Provincial Court system when their claim is within its jurisdiction.
  • Some matters can only be brought before the Court of Queen's Bench, such as a claim or counterclaim respecting:
    1. title to land that is brought into question;
    2. the validity of any devise, bequest or testamentary limitation (for example, a devise of a fee tail or a life estate);
    3. malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, defamation, criminal conversation or breach of promise of marriage;
    4. an action against a judge, justice of the peace or peace officer for anything done by that person while executing the duties of that office; or
    5. a local authority or school board for the recovery of taxes, other than taxes imposed in respect of the occupancy of or an interest in land that is itself exempt from taxation.
  • The Rules of Court outlines certain procedural steps that must be taken. Compliance with these Rules of Court is more costly. However, the remedies provided may prove particularly useful when an opposing party is delinquent, evasive or obstructionist.
  • There are restrictions about who can appear on your behalf in Court of Queen's Bench:
    1. A corporation who is a party to litigation must be represented by a lawyer.
    2. An individual can choose to be self-represented or to retain a lawyer.
    3. Generally speaking, non-lawyer agents are not allowed.
  • Pre-trial dispute resolution (for example, mediation) is optional, and proceed on a user-pay basis. Although mediators can be expensive (it is not unusual for mediators to charge in excess of $300/hr) one notable benefit is that the parties have the ability to choose their mediator and tailor a mediation process to suit their interests. Alternatively, there is the option for Court-arranged judicial dispute resolution meeting ("JDR"), which is provided at no cost. However, the waiting list for a JDR is long with parties sometimes waiting more than a year to obtain a date.

Provincial Court

  • The Provincial Court's civil jurisdiction is defined in s. 9.6 of the Provincial Court Act and includes claims or counterclaims for:
    1. debts whether payable in money or otherwise;
    2. unjust enrichment, including a claim or counterclaim for the recovery of the value of services provided or goods supplied;
    3. damages, including damages for breach of contract;
    4. a determination of the title to and the right of possession of personal property, and for the delivery of that personal property (provided its value does not exceed the amount prescribed by the regulations); and
    5. for specific performance or rescission of a contract, so long as the value of the rights in issue does not exceed the amount prescribed by the regulations.
  • The judicial procedure is governed by the Provincial Court Act, not the Rules of Court. This is intended to allow a quick and inexpensive resolution to a matter before the Court. These simplified procedures are friendlier to self-represented litigants, who would otherwise struggle to understand and comply with the Rules of Court in Court of Queen's Bench.
  • Fewer procedural steps, combined with greater Court availability, also mean that matters typically resolve sooner than actions filed in the Court of Queen's Bench.
  • A party, even a corporation, can choose to be self-represented, or to be represented by a lawyer or agent.
  • The Provincial Court procedures provide mandatory pre-trial conferences and mediation services, free of charge. Even if the claim is not resolved, the exercise often assists the parties to narrow the issues for trial.
  • The Provincial Court is more accessible, with over 70 courthouses across Alberta. By contrast, there are only a handful of courthouses which hear Court of Queen's Bench civil matters. The costs associated with your travel and accommodation to these urban centers, or conversely, the cost of your counsel travelling out to these communities, may be considered.

Using the above factors as a guide, you should carefully consider your priorities and goals for the outcome of your claim, weighing the pros and cons of each forum. If you have questions, you are strongly encouraged to discuss them with your lawyer.

Contractors who have debt/builders' lien claims provide a good example for why it is important to weigh the pros and cons of Provincial Court and the Court of Queen's Bench. In such cases, you may elect to file a builder's lien in Court of Queen's Bench, or you may file a claim as a debt or damages claim in Provincial Court.

While the latter may be more economical at the outset, you may later regret not having a lien registered against the land, particularly if the debtor proves to be insolvent. One cost-effective option is to file the lien in the Court of Queen's Bench, apply to have the monies paid into Court, and then stay the Queen's Bench action pending a trial in Provincial Court.

Finally, parties with unfiled claims between $50,000 and $100,000 (and who are not facing an imminent limitation period) may consider deferring filing their claim until the limit is increased to $100,000. Again, this is something that should be discussed with your lawyer.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Sarah R. Levine
Events from this Firm
19 Dec 2017, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

McLennan Ross previously conducted a webinar on June 6, 2017 about the passage of Bill 17, during which we reviewed the changes to the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code. During that webinar, we identified a number of issues which would depend upon the language of the Regulations, which had not yet been developed.

24 Oct 2018, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

A written employment agreement is an often ignored best practice for non-union employers. A written agreement can be a critical risk management tool if it properly sets out duties, rights and expectations both during the employment relationship and after it ends.

5 Nov 2018, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

Who Should Attend: This webinar is intended for superintendents of schools, central office personnel, HR personnel, in house counsel and school board trustees.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions