The Northwest Territories has five separate courts which operate independently from the federal and territorial governments, enabling judges to make fair decisions.
The official website of the courts of the Northwest Territories can be found at https://www.nwtcourts.ca.
The Court of Appeal for the Northwest Territories is the highest court in the Northwest Territories, and hears appeals arising from judgments or decisions from the lower courts. Hearings usually take place before a quorum of three judges. The Court of Appeal primarily sits in Yellowknife.
The Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories has jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters. Trials for more serious criminal matters (including jury trials) are heard in this court. The Supreme Court travels to many communities to hold trials and is located in Yellowknife.
The Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories has jurisdiction over civil matters for claims up to $35,000 in value, non-jury trials for most criminal charges, and preliminary inquiries on serious criminal offences. The Territorial Court travels to many communities for court, and has registries in Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik.
The Youth Justice Court hears criminal and summary conviction matters involving youth ages 12-18. The Youth Justice Court travels to many communities for court, and has registries in Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik.
Justice of the Peace Court is the normal court of first appearance on all criminal matters, and holds trials on offences under territorial statutes and municipal bylaws. Justice of the Peace Court may be held in any community and sits regularly in Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik.
The territorial court system features several alternative court processes. These are intended to reduce the risk of re-offending by supporting and assisting offenders who plead guilty to charges. Specialized courts focus on improving community safety and long-term outcomes for offenders by taking a holistic approach and focusing on the broad array of factors that may contribute to offending behaviour.
The domestic violence treatment option integrates counseling and therapy opportunities with the court process for individuals who have used violence in their relationships, and recognize the need to change their behavior.
Wellness Court presents an alternative approach that aims to deal with the issues behind the offending behaviour. In support of the Wellness Court, the Wellness Court Program provides monitored treatment and community service support for chronic offenders with mental health issues, addictions, or cognitive challenges.
Selected matters involving minor criminal offenses can be diverted from the court system on the recommendation of crown counsel or the RCMP to be handled by a Community Justice Committee. The committees empower communities to find solutions to the crimes that affect them, and provide a means by which youth and individuals accused of minor offenses can avoid a permanent criminal record.