In criminal cases, there are very strict rules governing what evidence can be used and how it can be used. The rules of evidence dictate what type of evidence can be admitted at trial, when it can be admitted, and how it is to be admitted.
At the federal level, the rules of evidence are outlined in the Canada Evidence Act. In addition, each province may enact its own legislation governing the rules of evidence within its jurisdiction. In Ontario, the Evidence Act governs the use of evidence in Ontario courts. It is important to note that the rules of evidence provided by the province cannot contradict the rules of evidence provided by the federal government. Many of the rules of evidence are also derived from common law.
The rules of evidence define how different types of evidence including real evidence, documentary evidence, direct evidence, and circumstantial evidence can be used at trial. The rules of evidence also provide explicit prohibitions on the use of evidence that is not reliable or credible, including hearsay evidence and character evidence in certain situations.