Jurisdiction of Small Claims Court in British Columbia

There are three levels of Courts in British Columbia; Provincial Court, Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal.  Each Court plays a different role in our legal system. For example, provincial Court is set up to adjudicate smaller claims of value up to $35,000.00. Whereas, Supreme Court is generally for claims above $35,000.00 in value. Supreme Court is also where Provincial Court decisions are appealed. The Court of Appeal is specifically for appealing the decisions of the Supreme Court.

It is important to consider the level of Court when considering the type of remedy or solution that would work best within your specific circumstances, as only the Supreme Court can provide certain orders. For example, in order to stop a party from causing further damage to your property, it may be best to ask the Court for injunctive relief, and order, meaning that the Court will order a party to stop from performing a certain action. However, only the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to offer injunctive relief, as Provincial Small Claims does not have the inherent jurisdiction required to make these orders.

Section 3(1) of the Small Claims Act [RSBC 1996] Chapter 430 outlines the specific orders that the Small Claims Court is able to make:

3  (1) The Provincial Court has jurisdiction in a claim for

(a) debt or damages,
(b) recovery of personal property,
(c) specific performance of an agreement relating to personal property or services, or
(d) relief from opposing claims to personal property

if the amount claimed or the value of the personal property or services is equal to or less than an amount that is prescribed by regulation, excluding interest and costs.

The inability of the Provincial Court to grant an injunction or make a declaratory order was confirmed in Bi et al. v. City of Surrey, 2017 BCPC 386. The Court in Bi et al also confirmed that the Provincial Court does not have the authority to grant damages in lieu of an injunction or a declaratory order. This means that the type of interim orders that the Provincial Court can grant differs greatly from the Supreme Court.

To avoid wasted time and costs, it is important to consider the type of order, and by extension the level of Court that is best for your circumstances.