Territorial Competence of BC Courts to Hear a Case

The Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, S.B.C. 2003, chapter 28 is a provincial statute that sets out the “territorial competence” of BC courts. Essentially, territorial competence has to do with whether a BC court or a court in another jurisdiction (be it another province, country, or subdivision of another country) is best suited to hear a particular case.

Section 3 of the Act states that a BC court has territorial competence in a proceeding brought against a person (i.e. a defendant or respondent) only if:

  • that person is the plaintiff in another proceeding in the court to which the proceeding in question is a counterclaim,
  • during the course of the proceeding that person submits to the court’s jurisdiction,
  • there is an agreement between the plaintiff and that person to the effect that the court has jurisdiction in the proceeding,
  • that person is ordinarily resident in British Columbia at the time of the commencement of the proceeding, or
  • there is a real and substantial connection between British Columbia and the facts on which the proceeding against that person is based.

Section 10 of the Act contains a non-exhaustive list of circumstances that are presumed to amount to a real and substantial connection. Some common examples include lawsuits that concern:

  • property located in BC;
  • contracts entered into in BC or ones the parties agreed would be subject to BC law;
  • torts committed in BC. This would include negligence claims arising, for instance, from car accidents that happened in BC; and
  • a business carried on in BC.

Even if a BC court lacks territorial competence to hear a case, section 6 of the Act provides that it may nevertheless hear the case if there is no other court in which to commence the proceeding, or if commencing the proceeding in another court cannot reasonably be required.

Conversely, even if a BC court has territorial competence to hear a case, section 11 of the Act provides that it can nevertheless decline jurisdiction if there is a more appropriate court in which to hear the case. In deciding whether another court would be more appropriate, the BC court will consider:

  1. the comparative convenience and expense for the parties to the proceeding and for their witnesses, in litigating in the court or in any alternative forum,
  2. the law to be applied to issues in the proceeding,
  3. the desirability of avoiding multiplicity of legal proceedings,
  4. the desirability of avoiding conflicting decisions in different courts,
  5. the enforcement of an eventual judgment, and
  6. the fair and efficient working of the Canadian legal system as a whole.

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