Legal and Immigration

Canadian Law and Justice

The Canadian legal system respects individual rights while at the same time making sure that our society works in an orderly manner. An essential principle is that the law applies to everyone. This includes the police, government and public officials, who must carry out their public duties according to the law. Canadian laws recognize and protect basic individual rights and freedoms, such as liberty and equality.

Our legal system, which is based on a tradition of law and justice, gives Canadian society a valuable framework. The rule of law and democratic principles have been part of our history and remain today the foundation of the legal system.

Law can be divided into public and private law. Public law deals with matters that affect society as a whole. It includes criminal, constitutional and administrative law. Public laws set the rules for the relationship between the individual and society and for the roles of different levels of government. For example, if someone breaks a criminal law, it is seen as a wrong against society as a whole.

Private or civil law deals with the relationships between individuals. Civil laws set the rules for contracts, property ownership, the rights and obligations of family members, damage to someone or to their property caused by others, and so on.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

IRCC facilitates the arrival of immigrants, provides protection to refugees, and offers programming to help newcomers settle in Canada. It also:

  • grants citizenship and
  • issues travel documents (such as passports) to Canadians.
Express Entry for Residents of Hong Kong*

Temporary public policy creates two pathways to permanent residence to facilitate the immigration of certain Hong Kong residents. You may qualify for special measures to come to Canada, including

Stream A: In-Canada Graduates. Eligibility:

> Hold a valid HK SAR or BNO passport

> Be physically in Canada with valid status, when you apply and when you get permanent residence

> Have level 5 score in all 4 skills in either Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or Niveau de competence linguistique canadiens (NCLC)

> Graduated in the last 3 years from a Canadian DLI completed in Canada (at least 50%) with: degree, two-year diploma, one-year post graduate certificate/diploma*

Stream B: Canadian Work Experience.  Eligibility:

> Hold a valid HK SAR or BNO passport

> Be physically in Canada with valid status, when you apply and when you get permanent residence

> Have level 5 score in all 4 skills in either Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or Niveau de competence linguistique canadiens (NCLC)

> Graduated in the last 5 years from a Canadian DLI completed in Canada (at least 50%) with: degree, two-year diploma, one-year post graduate certificate/diploma*

> Have worked in Canada for at least 12 months full time, or an equal amount of part-time hours in the 3 years before you apply.

*Limited time measures and may subject to change. Please visit the official website for details.


The basic role of courts in Canada is to help people resolve disputes fairly and in accordance with the law, both in matters between individuals and in matters between individuals and the state. In the process, courts interpret and establish law, set standards and raise questions that affect all aspects of Canadian society.

It is worth noting that most disputes do not end up in the courts at all. Most often, individuals settle their differences outside of court (for example, through alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration).

There are several levels and types of courts.

Both the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments pass laws, and they also share the administration of justice.

Legal representation

If you need help in a Canadian court, you could consider hiring a lawyer to represent you. There are services that can help you find a lawyer. These include referral services provided by provincial and territorial law societies (consult and JusticeNet, a not-for-profit service helping people in need of legal expertise (call 1-866-919-3219 or consult

Depending on your income, you may be able to get the services of a lawyer free of charge (this is called “legal aid”). Each province and territory has a legal aid society that is responsible for providing these services. You can also ask an immigrant-serving organization in your city or town for assistance in obtaining legal representation (consult


The police in Canada keep people safe and enforce the law. There are different types of police, including federal, provincial, territorial and municipal police forces. If you need to call the police in an emergency, dial 911. The police are there to help you and others.

If you are the victim of a crime, or if you see a crime taking place or know about criminal activities, you are encouraged to contact the police and report it. If the police question or arrest you, do not resist. Under Canadian law, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Be calm, speak as clearly as possible and look directly at the officer. Be ready to show some kind of identification. If you are detained or arrested by the police, you have the right to know why. You also have the right to have a lawyer and a translator present (if you need one). It is a serious crime to try to bribe the police by offering money, gifts or services in exchange for special treatment.

Age of majority and the age of consent

The age of majority is the age when a person is legally considered an adult. In Canada, the age of majority is 18 or 19 years old depending on the province or territory in which you live.

The general age of consent to sexual activity is 16 years. The age of consent is 18 years if the sexual activity occurs within a relationship of authority, trust or dependency (for example, with a teacher, coach or babysitter) or where there is other exploitation. Pornography or prostitution involving persons under 18 years of age is a criminal offence in Canada. Remember that all sexual activity without consent is a crime regardless of age. For more information on the law about the age of consent, consult

Family law


Marriage is a fundamental institution in Canada, the foundation of family life for many Canadians, and one of the basic constituents of a strong and prosperous society. In Canada, there are laws against being married to more than one person at a time. You cannot come to Canada with more than one spouse even if you were married to more than one person in the past.

The laws also prohibit you from marrying someone in Canada if one of you is already married. It does not matter where or when that marriage took place. In Canada, you can only remarry if you are legally divorced or if your spouse has died.

According to longstanding moral principles, which are codified in Canadian law, it is illegal to force anyone into marriage in Canada. A father or brother cannot force his daughter or sister to marry against her will. Women who are pressured into marriage should contact public authorities such as the police, who will protect them.

It is a crime to marry Canadian citizens or permanent residents only to gain entry into Canada. Some sponsors and foreign applicants arrange a “marriage of convenience”: a marriage or common-law relationship where the sole purpose is for the sponsored spouse to immigrate to Canada. Canadian citizens or permanent residents found to be part of a marriage of convenience for immigration purposes may be charged with a crime.


The Divorce Act sets out Canada’s rules for getting a civil divorce to end a civil marriage. In Canada, only a court can give you a civil divorce. Either husband or wife may apply for a divorce but proof must be provided to the court that your marriage has broken down and that reasonable arrangements have been made for the support of any children. If your spouse has been living in a foreign country for a year or more and gets a divorce according to the laws of that country, the divorce would generally be legal in Canada.

Animal protection

Across Canada, there are laws that prohibit cruelty toward animals. These laws apply to both pets and farm animals. You may be fined or jailed if you neglect or hurt an animal.

Employees’ rights

In Canada, provincial and federal labour laws are designed to protect employees and employers. These laws set minimum salaries, health and safety standards, hours of work, parental leave and annual paid vacations, and they provide protection for children. There are also laws that prevent employers from treating employees unfairly based on sex, age, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation. You should learn about provincial and federal labour laws before you begin work in Canada. 

You have the right to join a labour union in Canada and it is often an involuntary requirement whether you choose it or not.

Union fees will be deducted from your salary. If you feel that your employer or union has treated you unfairly, you may ask for advice or assistance from an officer of the ministry responsible for labour in the province or territory where you work.  

You can also visit a Service Canada Centre to talk to a federal government labour affairs officer (see for locations).