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Title: sentence

A sentence is a punishment given to someone found guilty of an offence. A sentence for an adult can include jail time, but it doesn't have to. A sentence can also include a fine or a period of probation. Sentences for youth are different.


Sentencing circles are an alternative to a sentencing hearing. It is a community-based process where community members try to agree on an appropriate sentence that everyone is satisfied with.  

The sentencing circle includes the accused, an elder, judge, Crown, and lawyer. The circle might also include an Indigenous court worker, police or court officers, and members of the accused’s family, and the victim and their family.

Sentencing circles vary in structure and process but are generally based on restorative justice principles. This means that instead of punishing the accused, sentencing circles try to help the accused heal their relationship with the victim and with the community.

Sentencing circles are usually not available for people facing sentences that are longer than two years.

Title: separation

To separate is when at least one partner decides to end their marriage or common-law relationship, and starts to behave in a way that shows they want to end the relationship. They only have to want to live "separate and apart" from their partner to legally separate. Separation and divorce are two different things.


A separation agreement, sometimes called a domestic contract, is a written contract that partners can make after they have separated or divorced that says how they will deal with their issues. For example, it can say how much spousal support and child support one partner will pay the other, and who will have custody of or access to the children. A separation agreement can deal with some or all of your family law issues.

Title: serious crime

A permanent resident can be ordered deported if they’re convicted of a serious crime. A crime is serious if either:

  • the maximum sentence that the law says you can get is 10 or more years in prison, even if you get a shorter sentence or no time at all in prison, or
  • the sentence that you actually get is more than 6 months in prison or jail.
Title: serve

Give or deliver a document to someone. Usually the law says how you can give or deliver the document, who has to get it, and the deadline by which they have to get it.

Title: service

A service is something that is offered to help meet a need. Some examples are:

  • Stores, restaurants and bars
  • Hospitals and health services
  • Schools, universities and colleges
  • Public places, amenities and utilities such as recreation centres, public washrooms, malls and parks
  • Services and programs provided by municipal and provincial governments including social assistance and other benefits, and public transit
  • Services provided by insurance companies

Services can be offered by individuals, companies, or the government.

Title: settle

You settle a debt when you reach an agreement with your creditor about repayment which will end the debt once you have made the agreed payments.


A settlement conference is a meeting between a judge, the parties, and their lawyers if they have any. The purposes of a settlement conference include:

  • talking about ways to solve those issues without going to a trial
  • if possible, obtaining the judge's view of how the court might decide the case
  • thinking about any matter that may help solve the case
Title: severance pay

Severance pay is not the same as termination pay or pay in lieu of notice. The Employment Standards Act gives some people the right to severance pay when they lose their jobs.

You get severance pay only if you've worked at least 5 years for your employer and:

  • your employer pays wages of at least $2.5 million a year, or
  • at least 50 people will be losing their jobs within a 6-month period because the business is being cut back.

The basic rule is that severance pay is one week's pay for each year you've worked for your employer, up to 26 weeks.

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