Manitoba increasing small claims court maximum to $20K in 2025

Manitobans will be able to launch small claims court cases of up to $20,000 starting in 2025, an increase of $5,000 from the current maximum.

The change brings Manitoba’s small claims maximum more in line with other provinces, where the maximum ranges from $15,000 in Quebec to $100,000 in Alberta.

“It certainly reflects the realities of inflation,” Justice Minister Matt Wiebe said in an interview with Radio-Canada. “It’s also an important initiative to enhance access to justice for those who want to utilize the small claims process.”

An amendment to the Court of King’s Bench Small Claims Practices Act regulation makes the change effective Jan. 1, 2025.

Small claims court is a less formal legal process where court officers — usually not judges — hear disputes over smaller amounts.

People’s court

Having a higher threshold for small claims frees up judges’ time for other cases, Wiebe said.

The idea to increase the limit came from judicial workers, he said.

Wiebe says he doesn’t think small claims court will need more resources to deal with an influx of cases, because inflationary pressure has reduced the number of cases that can be handled that way under the current limit.

There were 841 cases for amounts between $15,000 and $20,000 filed in the Court of King’s Bench from April 2019 to March 2024, the province said.

Andrea Doyle, a University of Manitoba law instructor, told Radio-Canada the increase is a good idea.

Small claims court is sometimes referred to as the people’s court, Doyle said, because it’s a faster, less expensive process. Because there are fewer procedural rules, many plaintiffs don’t hire a lawyer.

Many cases are about lack of payment for services, such as a company that renovates a property and hasn’t been paid for the work, or a lawyer or accountant with a client who didn’t pay a bill, she said.

Certain lawsuits cannot be filed in small claims court: landlord-tenant disputes, property disputes, inheritance cases, wrongful dismissal cases, family matters or defamation cases.

Manitoba last increased the maximum amount in small claims court in 2020, to $15,000 from $10,000.

The maximum small claims amounts in Canadian provinces are currently:

  • British Columbia — $35,000.
  • Alberta — $100,000.
  • Saskatchewan — $50,000.
  • Manitoba — $15,000.
  • Ontario — $35,000.
  • Quebec — $15,000.
  • New Brunswick — $20,000.
  • Prince Edward Island — $16,000.
  • Nova Scotia — $25,000.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador — $25,000.