The General Division

General Division – Civil Litigation and Criminal Law

The Court of Queen’s Bench (General Division) is the highest trial court in Manitoba, dealing with civil and criminal matters.  The General Division also hears appeals from decisions by masters, small claims hearing officers, and the Provincial Court on summary convictions.  In addition, the General Division reviews decisions from certain administrative tribunals.

General Division judges sit in Brandon, Dauphin, Flin Flon, Morden, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, St. Boniface, Swan River, The Pas, Thompson, and Winnipeg.

For both civil and criminal matters, the General Division consistently strives to improve the timely delivery of judicial services in a manner that best serves the parties, counsel, and the public.  The court’s basic philosophy is to ensure that cases are decided by impartial judges through a fair, open, timely, and transparent process.  The application of this philosophy instills public confidence in the judiciary and the justice system.

In the realm of civil litigation, the General Division has recently taken steps to improve access to justice by introducing various initiatives informed by this basic philosophy.  Insofar as the court has made purposeful efforts to bring about rule changes and practice policies, they have been informed by the notion of access to justice, including the defining notion of proportionality.  Most recently, these initiatives have included:

  • Court rules that ensure throughout the course of the pre-trial process, an action is subject to active and ongoing supervision by the pre-trial judge, who may give any direction that he or she considers necessary to facilitate the just, most expeditious and least expensive determination of an action.  For example, this may include establishing reasonable limits on pre-trial steps and the presentation of evidence at trial.
  • Implementation of the “one judge model”, where the same judge handles all procedural steps, hears any motions, and presides over the trial.
  • Requiring that a timely trial or dispositive motion be set at the first pre-trial conference, with adjournments of such hearings only permitted in exceptional circumstances.
  • Expanding the options available to facilitate settlement to include not only judicially assisted dispute resolution but also a neutral evaluation where early in the process a judge can provide his or her non-binding opinion on the probable outcome of the matter following a presentation of each party’s best case.

In the realm of criminal law, the General Division’s assignment court projects and scheduling guidelines in The Pas, Thompson, and Winnipeg have reduced trial delays by ensuring early and more efficient pre-trial conferences and timelines for the fixing of hearing dates.  This also includes the setting of early trial dates at the first pre-trial conference and requiring that sentencing hearings be set at the time that a conviction is entered where the sentencing is not already taking place at that time.  The introduction of Criminal Rules also require, from the time of the first pre-trial conference, an increased rigour to the assessment of issues so as to ensure particularly focused contested hearings and to encourage the resolution of cases or at least a narrowing of issues requiring adjudication.

In the realms of both civil and criminal law, the court has significantly increased its use of technology to permit remote hearings by audio and video conference.  The successful deployment of this technology has permitted the General Division to avoid a backlog of cases as a result of the operational disruptions relating to the COVID-19 virus pandemic.  As at the spring of 2022, those matters that were delayed because of such operational disruptions have largely since proceeded or are soon scheduled to proceed either in-person and/or with the use of audio or video conferencing.

Overall, the General Division continues to lead in the development of access to justice initiatives in both the civil and criminal realms and looks forward to the implementation of other upcoming court projects including the court’s integrated case management system, which will include e-filing and digitization of evidence.  Importantly, the General Division is committed to judicial reconciliation with Indigenous people and looks forward to further outreach to Indigenous communities with the hope of working together on meaningful initiatives to improve access to justice for Indigenous people.

Shane I. Perlmutter

Associate Chief Justice

Information on this page last updated on June 8, 2022