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Federal Court of Canada


Federal Court of Canada

The Federal Court of Canada, which succeeded the Exchequer Court of Canada in 1971, was a national court of Canada that had limited jurisdiction to hear certain types of disputes arising under the federal government's legislative jurisdiction. The Court was split in 2003 into two separate Courts, the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, although the jurisdiction and powers of the Courts remained largely unchanged.


  • History 1
    • Pre-Confederation to Confederation 1.1
    • Exchequer Court 1.2
    • Federal Court of Canada 1.3
  • Organization 2
  • Jurisdiction 3
    • Presidents of the Exchequer Court of Canada 3.1
  • Judges 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Pre-Confederation to Confederation

Prior to Confederation, the predominantly English-speaking Canada West (which succeeded Upper Canada) and the predominantly French-speaking Canada East (which succeeded Lower Canada) each had a separate system of courts. During pre-Confederation negotiations, the creation of a national court had been contemplated to deal with matters relating to federal law.[1] The Constitution Act, 1867 thus provided under s. 101 that:

The Parliament of Canada may, notwithstanding anything in this Act, from Time to Time provide for the Constitution, Maintenance, and Organization of a General Court of Appeal for Canada, and for the Establishment of any additional Courts for the better Administration of the Laws of Canada.[2]

Despite the language in the constitution, a national court was not established until 1875.[1] Prime Minister John A. Macdonald made several attempts between 1869 and 1873 to create a national court under the powers granted to Parliament under s. 101 of the Constitution Act, 1867.[1] However, these early attempts were rebuffed due to concerns over jurisdiction, particularly because the early proposals would have established a federal Supreme Court exercising both original (trial) jurisdiction and concurrent appellate jurisdiction potentially in conflict with existing courts administered by Ontario and Quebec.[1]

While no court per se was created, provision was made for the appointment of Official Arbitrators,[3] whose decisions soon became subject to a final appeal to a Board of Arbitrators,[4] until a further right of appeal to the new Exchequer Court was created in 1897.[5]

Exchequer Court

In 1875, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie passed The Supreme and Exchequer Court Act[6] (introduced by Minister of Justice Telesphore Fournier), which was based on Macdonald's earlier unsuccessful bill of 1870. This act created both the Supreme Court of Canada and the Exchequer Court. The jurisdiction of the Exchequer Court was provided under sections 58 and 59 of the Act:

58. The Exchequer Court shall have and possess concurrent original jurisdiction in the Dominion of Canada, in all cases in which it shall be sought to enforce any law of the Dominion of Canada relating to the revenue, including actions, suits, and proceedings, by way of information, to enforce penalties and proceedings by way of information in rem, and as well in qui tam suits for penalties or forfeitures as where the suit is on behalf of the Crown alone; and the said Court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases in which demand shall be made or relief sought in respect of any matter which might in England by the subject of a suit or action in the Court of Exchequer on its revenue side against the Crown, or any officer of the Crown.
59. The Exchequer Court shall also have concurrent original jurisdiction with the Courts of the several Provinces in all other suits of a civil nature at common law or equity in which the Crown in the interest of the Dominion of Canada is plaintiff or petitioner.[6]

The Supreme and Exchequer Court Act made it clear that the Exchequer Court of Canada was inspired by the Court of Exchequer in England, both in name and in jurisdiction, focusing as it did on matters of revenue.[7] In the same year, however, England abolished the Court of Exchequer, merging its jurisdiction into the High Court of Justice.[1] Nonetheless, the jurisdiction provided to the Exchequer Court of Canada initially consisted of:

  • concurrent original jurisdiction over all cases relating to the enforcement of the revenue laws;
  • exclusive original jurisdiction over any demand or relief sought in like manner as the English Court of Exchequer in its revenue side; and
  • concurrent original jurisdiction over all civil cases where the Crown is the plaintiff or petitioner.

The independence of the Exchequer Court was not immediately established. Indeed, justices of the Supreme Court also sat as justices of the Exchequer Court in the early years.[7] The two Courts were not separated until 1887, when the Supreme and Exchequer Courts Act was amended.[8] lawyer from New Brunswick, was the first Exchequer Court judge appointed under this new arrangement.[7] At the same time, the Court's jurisdiction was expanded to include exclusive original jurisdiction over all claims against the Crown. It subsequently was conferred admiralty jurisdiction in 1891.[9]

Federal Court of Canada

In 1971, the Federal Court of Canada was established, inheriting much of the jurisdiction of the Exchequer Court. The Federal Court of Canada gained the jurisdiction to hear judicial reviews from federal agencies and tribunals. The Federal Court of Canada had two divisions, the Federal Court – Trial Division and Federal Court – Appeal Division.

On July 2, 2003 the court was again restructured. The Court was split into two separate Courts, with the Trial Division continued as the Federal Court and the Appeal Division continued as the Federal Court of Appeal.

Until 1976, there was substantial judicial support[10][11] for the view that Parliament could give a federal court jurisdiction over any matter (even a matter not regulated by federal statute law), on the basis that "the Laws of Canada" meant not only federal statutes, but provincial ones as well. However, in Quebec North Shore Paper Co. v. Canadian Pacific,[12] the Supreme Court of Canada rejected this notion, as:

  • provincial law is not pro tanto federal law, nor can it be transposed into federal law for the purposes of giving jurisdiction to the Federal Court.
  • judicial jurisdiction of the Federal Court is not co-extensive with legislative jurisdiction of Parliament, as "the Laws of Canada" carries the requirement that there be applicable and existing federal law


The Court consisted of a first-level trial court, known as the Federal Court of Canada – Trial Division, and an appellate Court, known as the Federal Court of Canada – Appeal Division (more commonly referred to as the Federal Court of Appeal).

The Trial Division had jurisdiction to hear judicial review of decisions of federal boards and tribunals, including most immigration matters, as well as jurisdiction in admiralty, intellectual property, and disputes involving the federal government.

The Appeal Division had jurisdiction to hear appeals of decisions of the Trial Division, as well as to determine applications for judicial review of decisions made by specific boards and tribunals, set out in section 28 of the Federal Court Act. Decisions of the Appeal Division could be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, but only if leave (permission) was granted by either court.

The court did not use juries so all matters were decided by judge alone: a single judge in the Trial Division and a panel of three judges at the appeal level. Some pre-trial steps such as motions were decided by prothonotaries, a role similar to a master in other courts. The judges and prothonotaries were appointed by the Cabinet of the federal government.


Unlike the general courts set up by each province, matters could not be brought before the Federal Court of Canada unless a law explicitly allowed the proceeding. The docket of the court primarily consisted of judicial reviews of immigration, intellectual property, and federal employment disputes. The court could also deal with incidental aspects of a dispute that fell outside its jurisdiction if the primary dispute was within its jurisdiction.

The court was a national court so trials and hearings occurred throughout Canada. Any orders rendered by the court were enforceable in all the provinces and territories. This contrasts with the provincial superior courts which are organized by each province and require additional steps to enforce decisions in other provinces.

Presidents of the Exchequer Court of Canada

The position of President of the Court was not created until 1923. Before that time, justices of the Walter Gibson Pringle Cassels was appointed. In 1912, authority was given to appoint an associate judge to the Court, and Louis Arthur Audette was appointed to that position. In 1945, authority was given to appoint more judges to the Court.

From 1923, the Presidents of the Court were:


The judges of this court are listed below.[13]

     = former judge of the Exchequer Court of Canada
     = stepped down from original appointment
† = died in office
Judges of the Federal Court of Canada, June 1, 1971 – July 2, 2003
Name Trial Division Appeal Division Associate Chief Justice Chief Justice Left office Transferred to
Federal Court Federal Court of Appeal
Wilbur R. Jackett June 1, 1971 October 1, 1979
Camilien Noël June 1, 1971 July 4, 1975
Jacques Dumoulin June 1, 1971 December 1, 1972
Arthur L. Thurlow June 1, 1971 December 4, 1975 January 4, 1980 May 5, 1988
Alexander Cattanach June 1, 1971 July 26, 1984
Hugh F. Gibson June 1, 1971 December 14, 1981
Allison Walsh June 1, 1971 June 30, 1986
Roderick Kerr June 1, 1971 September 1, 1975
Louis Pratte June 10, 1971 January 25, 1973 January 1, 1999
Darrel V. Heald June 30, 1971 December 4, 1975 August 27, 1994
Frank U. Collier September 15, 1971 December 31, 1992
John J. Urie April 19, 1973 December 15, 1990
Raymond G. Décary September 13, 1973 January 31, 1984
Patrick M. Mahoney September 13, 1973 July 18, 1983 October 31, 1994
George A. Addy September 17, 1973 September 28, 1990
William F. Ryan April 11, 1974 August 1, 1986
Jean-Eudes Dubé April 9, 1975 November 6, 2001
Gerald Le Dain September 1, 1975 May 28, 1984[14]
Louis Marceau December 23, 1975 July 18, 1983 May 1, 2000
James Alexander Jerome February 18, 1980 March 4, 1998
Paul U.C. Rouleau August 5, 1982 [15]
James K. Hugessen June 23, 1998 July 18, 1983 [16]
Arthur J. Stone July 18, 1983 [17]
John McNair July 18, 1983 August 31, 1990
Francis C. Muldoon July 18, 1983 September 4, 2001
Barry L. Strayer July 18, 1983 August 30, 1994 [18]
Barbara Reed November 17, 1983 July 22, 2000
Mark R. MacGuigan June 29, 1984 †January 12, 1998
Pierre Denault June 29, 1984 November 1, 2001
Louis-Marcel Joyal June 29, 1984 December 31, 1998
Bud Cullen July 26, 1984 August 31, 2000
Bertrand Lacombe October 29, 1985 December 7, 1989
Leonard Martin October 29, 1985 October 24, 1991
Max M. Teitlebaum October 29, 1985 [19]
Alice Desjardins June 29, 1987 [20]
Frank Iacobucci September 2, 1988 January 6, 1991[21]
W. Andrew MacKay September 2, 1988 [22]
Robert Décary March 14, 1990 July 1, 2001
Allen M.Linden July 5, 1990 October 7, 2009
Julius A. Isaac September 1, 1999 December 24, 1991 [23]
Gilles Létourneau May 13, 1992
Joseph Robertson May 13, 1992 July 27, 2000
Donna McGillis May 13, 1992 May 15, 2003
Marc Noël June 24, 1992 June 23, 1998
Marshall E. Rothstein June 24, 1992 January 22, 1999 [24]
Francis J. McDonald April 1, 1993 September 6, 2001
Frederick E. Gibson April 1, 1993 [25]
William P. McKeown April 1, 1993 September 1, 2002
Marc Nadon June 10, 1993 December 14, 2001
Howard Wetston June 16, 1993 January 11, 1999
John D. Richard June 23, 1998 November 4, 1999 [26]
J. Edgar Sexton June 23, 1998 [27]
Pierre Blais June 23, 1998 [28]
John Maxwell Evans June 26, 1998 December 30, 1999
Karen Sharlow January 21, 1999 November 4, 1999
J.D. Denis Pelletier February 16, 1999 December 14, 2001
Brian D. Malone November 4, 1999 [29]
Allan Lutfy December 8, 1999 [30]
Eleanor Dawson December 8, 1999 [31]
Carolyn Layden-Stevenson January 25, 2002 [32]
Johanne Gauthier December 11, 2002 [33]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Ian Bushnell (1997). The Federal Court of Canada: A History, 1875-1992. Toronto:  
  2. ^ Constitution Act, 1867, s 101.
  3. ^ An Act respecting the Public Works of Canada, SC 1867, c 12
  4. ^ An Act to extend the powers of the Official Arbitrators, SC 1870, c 23
  5. ^ An Act respecting the Official Arbitrators, SC 1879, c 8
  6. ^ a b The Supreme and Exchequer Court Act, SC 1875, c 11.
  7. ^ a b c   – via HeinOnline (subscription required)
  8. ^ The Exchequer Court Act, SC 1887, c 16
  9. ^ The Admiralty Act, 1891, SC 1891, c 29
  10. ^ Stephen A. Scott (1982). "Canadian Federal Courts and the Constitutional Limits of Their Jurisdiction".   – via HeinOnline (subscription required)
  11. ^ Consolidated Distilleries, Limited, and another v The King [1933] UKPC 34, [1933] AC 508 (10 April), P.C. (on appeal from Canada)
  12. ^ Quebec North Shore Paper v. C.P. Ltd. 1976 CanLII 10, [1977] 2 SCR 1054 (29 June 1976)
  13. ^ "Former Judges and Prothonotaries". Federal Court (Canada). Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  14. ^ Elevated to the Supreme Court of Canada
  15. ^ Served until July 25, 2007.
  16. ^ Served until July 26, 2008.
  17. ^ Served until November 19, 2004.
  18. ^ Served until May 1, 2004.
  19. ^ Served until January 27, 2007.
  20. ^ Served until August 11, 2009.
  21. ^ Elevated to the Supreme Court of Canada
  22. ^ Served until March 20, 2004.
  23. ^ Served until July 18, 2003.
  24. ^ Served until March 9, 2006, before being elevated to the Supreme Court of Canada.
  25. ^ Served until August 30, 2008.
  26. ^ Became Chief Justice of the new Federal Court of Appeal on July 3, 2003, in which post he served until July 30, 2009.
  27. ^ Served until October 28, 2011.
  28. ^ Served until February 19, 2008, before being elevated to the Federal Court of Appeal.
  29. ^ Served until September 27, 2007.
  30. ^ Became Chief Justice of the Federal Court on July 3, 2003, in which post he served until September 30, 2011.
  31. ^ Served until November 26, 2009, before being elevated to the Federal Court of Appeal.
  32. ^ Served until December 12, 2008.
  33. ^ Served until October 21, 2011, before being elevated to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Further reading

  • Ian Bushnell (1997). The Federal Court of Canada: A History, 1875-1992. Toronto:  

External links

  • Official web site as of October 2002 (via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine)
  • Courts Administration Service Act, S.C. 2002, c. 8 (restructuring the Court, effective July 2, 2003) (as originally enacted)
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