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The Basics

The Canadian legal system has a complex set of procedures that legislators and judges follow to make and apply laws. In this section, we provide you with the basics of the legal system in Canada in order to provide insight into how common law police powers expand within this system.  

What is a common law police power?

Police generally receive their duties primarily through democratically elected legislators. Judges, however, have the ability to create new police powers. We identify what these judge-made laws are, and we provide some examples of common law police powers that have been created by the courts.

What does this mean for Canadians?

Find out how common law police powers affects the criminal justice system, systemic racism, the Charter and our Privacy Rights.

How does a court expand police powers?

When police conduct is questioned in court, judges review the police encounter retroactively by applying the Waterfield test to the facts of the case. Along with the Waterfield test, precedent plays a key role in the expansion of these powers. Click below to learn more.

What changed in 1985?

The Supreme Court of Canada first adapted the Waterfield test to create a new police power in Dedman v The Queen. Find out why this case stands out in Canadian law. 

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