Slaw readers likely know that there are special courts in Canada that have the jurisdiction to decide many types of civil claims where the monetary value of the claim is considered small. In my jurisdiction, until July 30, 2014 the upper limit for a Provincial Court of Alberta civil claim is $25,000. The upper limit of $25,000 also applies in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and in the Yukon.
The Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories can hear civil disputes up to $35,000. Until August 1, 2014, the NWT has the highest monetary limit in Canada for hearing a small claim. After that date, the highest limit for a small claim will be in Alberta: $50,000.
$50,000 is not really small in my mind. Here is why. Let’s take a salary that is pretty standard across the country for a good frame of reference. A Registered Nurse. For ease of calculation, lets say that an average nurse’s salary is $83,000 per year before tax (this is the higher side of the averages). Consider the average household expenditures (as of 2012 from Statistics Canada) are over $75,000.
When you consider that a nurse making $83,000 per year in Alberta will take home around $60,000 after taxes and benefits, a “small claim” that is a close race with full time professionals annual salary doesn’t seem very small, does it?
Do you think raising the limits in small claims courts will improve access to justice?