Court Rules History & Research

The rules of court regulate the conduct of litigation in the courts. Courthouse Libraries BC has compiled the following guide to the court rules of BC.

The rules are found within the inherent jurisdiction of the courts, the enabling legislation and the written rules.

The court has the jurisdiction to control its own processes. If a procedural matter is not covered by the written rules there may be a rule established by common law. Practice Directions/Directives also come from the inherent jurisdiction of the court. They do not have the same force of law as acts or regulations, however, litigants and practitioners are expected to comply with them. The sources below discuss the inherent jurisdiction of the court:

Section 92(14) of the Constitution Act, 1867 (The British North America Act, 1867) made the provinces responsible for the administration of the courts. The courts are established under provincial legislation. The BC acts are:

  • Court of Appeal Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 77
  • Provincial Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 379
  • Small Claims Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 430
  • Supreme Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 443

The Court Rules Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 80  gives the Lieutenant Governor in Council the authority to make rules by regulation. Also there are rules in the regulations made under the Criminal Code and the Family Relations Act. A rules committee is appointed by the Attorney General. They meet regularly, receive submissions and draft changes for the consideration of the Lieutenant Governor in Council..

The current BC rules are:

  • Court of Appeal Rules, B.C. Reg. 297/2001
  • Family Relations Act Rules and Regulations, B.C. Reg. 141/79
  • Patients Property Act Rules, B.C. Reg. 311/76
  • Provincial Court (Adult Guardianship) Rules, B.C. Reg. 30/2001
  • Provincial Court (Family) Rules, B.C. Reg. 417/98
  • Provincial Court (Child, Family and Community Service Act) Rules, B.C. Reg. 533/95
  • Official Reporters Regulation, B.C. Reg. 222/84
  • Small Claims Rules, B.C. Reg. 261/93
  • Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009
  • Criminal Rules of the Supreme Court of B.C., SI/97-140
  • B.C. Rules of Practice Respecting Reduction in the Number of Years of Imprisonment without Eligibility for Parole, SOR/97-569
  • Provincial Court of B.C. Criminal Caseflow Management Rules, SI/99-104

The rules can be found in a number of publications.  For the rules only see Consolidated Regulations of British Columbia.  The original rules and amendments can be found in the British Columbia Gazette Part IIThe following materials contain additional information about the rules and are available at most B.C. Courthouse libraries:

The Advocate 

  • Journal published by the Vancouver Bar Association.
  • Contains discussion of court rules and the text of various practice directions issued by the courts.

Annual Review of Law & Practice

  • This annual publication summarizes changes to the law each year including changes to the court rules.
  • First published in 1992.

British Columbia Annual Practice by Bouck, Dillon and Turriff

  • Published annually since 1988.
  • It includes annotated court rules, related acts and practice directions. 

British Columbia Annual Criminal Practice by Bouck, Hira and Bennett

  • In 1997 the publisher began publishing the criminal rules in a separate volume.
  • It has a similar format to the British Columbia Annual Practice and a new edition is published each year. 

British Columbia Appellate Practice by Brinton 

  • This looseleaf text contains a discussion of the procedure for appeals.
  • It includes a consolidation of the Court of Appeal Act and Rules.
  • The publisher stopped updating this book in 2000.

Civil Appeal Handbook  by Brinton

  • Contains a discussion of the procedure for appeals.
  • Replaces British Columbia Appellate Practice. 

British Columbia Supreme Court Practice Directions 

  • The practice directions that were received by the Vancouver Courthouse Library until 2011 are kept in this binder.
  • Published in British Columbia Annual Practice.

Canadian Abridgment. 3rd edition.

  • Civil Practice and Procedure volumes.
  • Contains digests of cases organized by subject.

The Conduct of Civil Litigation in British Columbia by Fraser and Horn

  • Two volume set focusing on civil litigation in the Supreme Court of B.C.
  • Organized by subject and discusses the rules involved under each subject.
  • Includes references to case law and commentary.

British Columbia Practice by Kowarsky and Stephens

  • Book of annotations for the Supreme Court Rules from the beginning of the Supreme Court in B.C. to 1977.
  • The unreported cases referred to in this text were collected together in a three volume set called British Columbia Practice: Rules of Practice

British Columbia Practice: Court of Appeal  by Kowarsky and Stephens

British Columbia Practice: Court of Appeal  by Lazare and Fisher

British Columbia Practice by McLachlin and Taylor

  • Three volume set is organized by Supreme Court Rule number and includes references to cases and commentary.
  • The publisher issued the first set of binders in 1979 and updated them until December of 1982.
  • In 1984 a new set was issued and was updated until December of 1988.
  • The 1984 printing was then replaced by the current set in 1991. 

British Columbia Court Forms. by McLachlin and Taylor

  • Four volume set of precedents.
  • Accompanies British Columbia Practice.  

Provincial Court Small Claims Handbook 

  • Contains a discussion of Small Claims Court procedures and includes forms and precedents.

British Columbia Supreme Court Rules Annotated by Seckel and MacInnis

  • Contains an annotated version of the Rules.
  • Includes practice directions.

Small Claims Act and Rules Annotated 

  • Contains an annotated version of the act and rules.
  • Includes forms.

Civil Procedure Encyclopedia by Stevenson and Côté - 

  • Five volume set discusses procedural law across Canada and England. 
  • It makes note of some decisions from the High Court of Australia.
  • Arranged by topic.

Western Practice Digest 

  • Contains digests of cases from the western provinces organized by subject.
  • Known as Power's Western Practice Digest.
  • The first edition was published in 1921, the second in 1953 and the third in 1977.
  • The third edition has two supplements which contain digests of cases up to 1993.

Check the "current to" date if using the rules on the internet or British Columbia Annual Practice, then look for amendments after that date.

When looking for judicial consideration of the court rules try using electronic sources such as the Keycite option on LawSource (available on the computers in most courthouse libraries) There is a noteup feature on CanLii. You can also do a keyword search in a database, which contains the full text of cases using significant words from the rule as your search terms.   You may also want to check print sources such as the annotated versions of the rules listed under Sources for Researching Court Rules in this guide as well as the following citators and reports:

British Columbia Court Rules Citator

  • Covers 1988 to the present.

Rules Citator for the B.C. Supreme Court Rules 

  • Covers 1977 to 1995.

Rules Judicially Considered

  • Covers court rules from all Canadian jurisdictions.
  • Includes some foreign rules and rules made pursuant to international treaties.

Law Reports (e.g. B.C.L.R., C.P.C., M.V.R., W.W.R.).  Check the "Rules Considered" section of the indexes to various topical and regional law reports. Remember to check bound volumes and paper parts published after the latest cumulative index.

The earliest known rules were the Rules and Manner of Proceedings of the Supreme Court of Civil Justice for Vancouver's Island, 1857 and the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Rules, 1877.

The next set of rules were the Supreme Court Rules, 1880 which came into force November 15, 1880. They were made pursuant to the Judicature Act, S.B.C. 1879, c.12, s.17 which gave the Lieutenant Governor in Council the authority to make court rules. These were essentially a copy of the English rules. England revised their rules in 1883. BC followed suit, revising their rules in the 1890s. This time they copied the English rules and added some rules which were borrowed from Ontario. The Supreme Court Rules, 1890 came into force January 1, 1893. These were followed by the Supreme Court Rules 1906, 1925, 1943, 1961, 1976 and 1990. With each revision BC moved further away from the English rules.

For more on the history of the rules see:

British Columbia Annual Practice by Bouck, Dillon and Turriff

  • The 1988 edition of B.C. Annual Practice contains a history of the court rules from 1879 to 1987.

Farr, David M.L. "The Organization of the Judicial System in the Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, 1849-1866." (1967) 3 University of British Columbia Law Review: 1-35. (KA1 B75 U55).  This article describes the court rules used during the colonial period.

Gouge, Jesse F. "Civil Procedure in the Superior Courts: The British Columbia Illustration 1849-1880." (1979) 13 University of British Columbia Law Review: 339-379. (KA1 B75 U55).  This article gives a detailed description of the early court rules.

Schmidt, Thea and Caird, Susan. "B.C. Rules of Court" (2002) 27 Canadian Law Libraries / Biblioteques de droit canadiennes. No. 5, 218-23.  This article gives an overview of the history of BC's court rules.

The old rules (1880-1975) were divided into Orders and Rules. Each rule was also given a marginal rule number, which is the number assigned to each rule in sequence and appears in the margin. In the old rules there are historical notes at the end of each rule. "M.R." refers to the marginal rule in the previous revision of the BC rules. "E.R." refers to the English rules.

A Tables of Concordance between 1976 & 1990 rules and the 1961 & 1976 rules can be found in the Rules of Court and Related EnactmentsA list of amendments to the court rules from 1976 onwards is available on request at the Vancouver Courthouse Library.

 I. Colonial Rules

The Vancouver Courthouse Library has:

II. Provincial Rules

The Vancouver Courthouse Library has the following, shelved at KN352 A115 S8:

  • Supreme Court Rules, 1880  In force November 15, 1880
  • Supreme Court Rules, 1890  In force January 1, 1893
  • Supreme Court Rules, 1906  In force May 1, 1906 (The Library also has a 1912 consolidation of the 1906 rules)
  • Supreme Court Rules, 1925  In force September 1, 1925
  • Supreme Court Rules, 1943  In force July 2, 1943
  • Supreme Court Rules, 1961  In force January 1, 1961 (The library also has a 1972 and a 1975 consolidation of the 1961 rules)
  • Supreme Court Rules, 1976  In force February 1, 1977 (The library also has a 1989 consolidation of the 1976 rules)

Amendments to the 1976 Supreme Court Rules (B.C. Regs. 634/76, 635/76 and 517/79). These particular amendments were not published in the British Columbia Gazette, Part II.

Supreme Court Rules, 1990  In force September 1, 1990.

The Vancouver Courthouse Library also has the Supreme Court of British Columbia Divorce & Matrimonial Causes Rules 1877.

Legislation

Section 36(1)(b) of the Interpretation Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 238 states, "If an enactment (the "former enactment") is repealed and another enactment (the "new enactment") is substituted for it, every proceeding commenced under the former enactment must be continued under and in conformity with the new enactment so far as it may be done consistently with the new enactment. The definition of enactment can be found in section 1 of the Interpretation Act, it includes acts or regulations or portions of acts or regulations.  

Transitional Provisions in the New Rules

Supreme Court Civil Rules, sections 9 and 10 of Appendix B (Re Costs)

Supreme Court Family Rules, see Rule 23-1

Case Law

The following decisions comment on the process of applying new or amended rules.

Regarding Costs

  • Robinson v. Robinson Estate, 2007 BCSC 408
  • Gook County Estates Ltd. v. Quesnel (City), 2007 BCSC 171, 168 BCAC 316
  • Burrardview Neighbourhood Assn. v. Vancouver (City), 2002 BCSC 1770, 9 B.C.L.R. (4th) 334

Regarding Appeals

Regarding the Originating Process

The court rules in other Canadian jurisdictions and in England may be the same or very similar to those in BC and authorities from other jurisdictions may therefore be useful. The Vancouver Courthouse library has the court rules from all Canadian jurisdictions and England. The court rules from a number of jurisdictions are also available on the internet. 

For annotated versions, see the following publications available in the Vancouver Courthouse Library.

Alberta

Civil Procedure Guide 

  • Contains an annotated version of the Alberta Rules of Court.

Manitoba

Manitoba Queen's Bench Rules Annotated

  • A looseleaf consolidation of the Manitoba rules with annotations.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Civil Procedure Rules

  • Annotated version of the Nova Scotia rules.
  • Contains practice directions and the Judicature Act.

Ontario

Ontario Annual Practice

  • Contains annotated Ontario court rules, related acts and practice directions.
  • New edition released each year. 

Holmested and Gale on the Judicature Act of Ontario and Rules of Practice Annotated 

  • Contains an annotated version of the Ontario rules.
  • Included in the notes for each rule are references to the corresponding rules in other provinces.

Holmested and Watson Ontario Civil Procedure

  • Annotated statutes and rules and practice directions.

Saskatchewan

The Queen's Bench Rules of Saskatchewan: Annotated

  • Consolidation of the Saskatchewan rules with annotations.

Federal Court of Canada

Federal Court Practice 

  • Annotated version of the Federal Court Act and Rules.
  • The Courthouse Library has editions from 1988 to the present.

Supreme Court of Canada

Supreme Court of Canada Manual 

  • Contains digests of recent decisions, an overview of the appeal process, annotated acts and rules, forms and notices to the profession.

Supreme Court of Canada Practice

  • Annotated version of the rules for the Supreme Court of Canada. 

England

Civil Procedure

  • Annotated version of England's court rules.
  • Previously known as The Supreme Court Practice and Annual Practice.
  • Commonly known as the White Book. 

Rules Revision Committee

Members of the Committee are appointed by the Attorney General.  They draft changes for the consideration of the Lieutenant Governor in council who enacts the regulations.  A list of the members can be found in British Columbia Annual Practice and on the British Columbia government website.

 For information about the establishment of the Committee, see The Advocate, (1973) vol. 31, editorials: p. 8-10 and 80-81 and "The New Rules of Court: The Background", The Advocate (1976) vol. 34, p. 117-19. Minutes of the committee's meetings are subject to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy legislation. For more information about the minutes, contact the Chair of the Committee.

 BC Justice Review Task Force

The Civil Justice Reform Working Group has been working on new court rules. 

The Courthouse Libraries has the following working documents, papers and reports: