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What is the Common Law?

People tend to be familiar with the term "common law partner" or "common law spouse", however the concept of common law is much broader. The common law developed originally in England. When England took control of Canada, the common law system of England migrated to Canada, and then Alberta (except for Quebec which retained much of its civil system.

The common law is the law created by judges (and to a certain extent tribunals, agencies, boards and commissions). It is reliant on precedent. Past decisions are reviewed and compared to the situation in front of the decisionmaker, which is used to decide certain types of conflicts. The common law system has judges as independent decision makers as opposed to the inquisitorial system found in civil law jurisdictions.

There is an interplay between judicial decisions and laws passed by different levels of government (statutes and regulations) , but often common law judges are also called on to interpret statutory, as well as constitutional issues.

The common law tends to be adaptable and flexible, leading to generally predictable outcomes in numerous proceedings.

If you have a question as to how the common law works, please feel free to contact us.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice. No solicitor client relationship is formed through this article. The reader is encouraged to retain counsel for advice in these matters.

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