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. Originally composed of two divisions, the Appellate Division and the Trial Division, in 2003 the Court was split into two separate Courts, the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal. The jurisdiction and powers of the two courts remained largely unchanged from the predecessor divisions.
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. 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.
Despite the language in the constitution, a national court was not established until 1875. 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. 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.
While no court per se was created, provision was made for the appointment of Official Arbitrators, whose decisions soon became subject to a final appeal to a Board of Arbitrators, until a further right of appeal to the new Exchequer Court was created in 1879.
In 1875, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie passed The Supreme and Exchequer Court Act (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.
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. In the same year, however, England abolished the Court of Exchequer, merging its jurisdiction into the High Court of Justice. Nonetheless, the jurisdiction provided to the Exchequer Court of Canada initially consisted of:
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. The two Courts were not separated until 1887, at which time the functions of the Official Arbitrators were subsumed into the Exchequer Court. George W. Burbidge, a lawyer from New Brunswick, was the first Exchequer Court judge appointed under this new arrangement. At the same time, the Court's jurisdiction was expanded to include exclusive original jurisdiction over all claims against the Crown.
While s. 96 of the BNA Act, 1867 constituted the superior courts in the provinces, admiralty law jurisdiction was not conferred on them, which continued to be vested in the vice-admiralty courts under the British Vice Admiralty Courts Act, 1863. Separate courts existed in British Columbia, Lower Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The absence of such a court for Ontario led to the Parliament of Canada, exercising its power under s. 101, to create the Maritime Court of Ontario through the passage of the Maritime Jurisdiction Act 1877. This was held to be a valid exercise of federal jurisdiction by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1879.
This mix of courts was rationalized after the British Parliament passed the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act 1890, where British possessions were authorized to create their own courts of admiralty jurisdiction. This was followed shortly with the passage of the Admiralty Act 1891, which consolidated such jurisdiction throughout Canada in the Exchequeur Court of Canada, which under the British Act "may exercise such jurisdiction in like manner and to as full an extent as the High Court in England, and shall have the same regard as that Court to international law and the comity of nations."
The extent of this jurisdiction was held to be only that which existed on 1 July 1891, in an appeal decided in 1927 by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This situation only changed after the Statute of Westminster 1931 came into force, after which Canada passed the Admiralty Act 1934, which broadened Canadian admiralty jurisdiction to match that of the High Court of England at that time:
18(1) The jurisdiction of the Court on its Admiralty side shall extend to and be exercised in respect of all navigable waters, tidal and non-tidal, whether naturally navigable or artificially made so, and although such waters be within the body of a county or other judicial district, and, generally, such jurisdiction shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be over the like places, persons, matters and things as the Admiralty jurisdiction now possessed by the High Court of Justice in England, whether existing by virtue of any statute or otherwise, and be exercised by the Court in like manner and to as full an extent as by such High Court.
In 1971, the Federal Court of Canada was established, consisting of two divisions (the "Federal Court – Trial Division" and the "Federal Court – Appeal Division"), 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. With respect to maritime jurisdiction, the Trial Division was declared to have:
concurrent original jurisdiction ... in all cases in which a claim for relief is made or a remedy is sought under or by virtue of Canadian maritime law or any other law of Canada relating to any matter coming within the class of subject of navigation and shipping except to the extent that jurisdiction has been otherwise specially assigned.
Until 1976, there was substantial judicial support 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, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected this notion, as:
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.
The position of President of the Court was not created until 1923. Before that time, justices of the Supreme Court of Canada sat as judges of the Exchequer Court from 1875 to 1887, at which time George Wheelock Burbidge was appointed as the first full-time judge of the Court. He served until 1908. when 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:
|Name||Appointed||Nominated By||Prior Position(s)|
|Chief Justice Paul Crampton |
|Justice Elizabeth Heneghan ||1999||Jean Chretien|
|Justice Luc Martineau ||2002|
|Justice James O'Reilly|
|Justice Richard Mosley|
|Justice Michel M.J. Shore|
|Justice Anne L. Mactavish|
|Justice Robert L. Barnes ||November 23, 2005||Paul Martin||Burchell, MacAdam Hayman -> Burchell Hayman Barnes -> Burchell Hayman Parish, Halifax (1989-2005)|
|Justice Russel W. Zinn ||February 20, 2008||Stephen Harper|
|Justice Jocelyne Gagné|
|Justice Catherine M. Kane|
|Justice Michael D. Manson|
|Justice Yvan Roy|
|Justice Cecily Y. Strickland|
|Justice Peter B. Annis|
|Justice Glennys L. McVeigh|
|Justice René LeBlanc|
|Justice Martine St-Louis|
|Justice George R. Locke|
|Justice Henry S. Brown|
|Justice Alan Diner|
|Justice Keith M. Boswell|
|Justice Simon Fothergill|
|Justice B. Richard Bell|
|Justice Denis Gascon ||February 26, 2015||Stephen Harper|
|Justice Richard F. Southcott|
|Justice Patrick K. Gleeson|
|Justice E. Susan Elliott ||June 26, 2015||Stephen Harper||Good Elliott Hawkins LLP [Kingston] (1981 to 2015)|
|Justice Sylvie E. Roussel ||June 26, 2015||Stephen Harper||Intelligence Review Committee (2007 to 2015)|
Noël & Associés (1987 to 2007)
|Justice Ann Marie McDonald ||June 26, 2015||Stephen Harper||McInnes Cooper (Fredericton) (2000 to 2015)|
Allen Dixon Bell (1995 to 2000)
|Justice Roger Lafrenière|
|Justice William F. Pentney|
|Justice Shirzad S. Ahmed|
|Justice Sébastien Grammond|
|Justice Paul Favel|
|Name||Appointed||Nominated By||Prior Position(s)|
|Justice Douglas R. Campbell |
|Justice Sean J. Harrington|
|Justice Leonard S. Mandamin|
|Justice Simon Noël ||August 8, 2002||Noël & Associates (1977-79)|
Noël, Décary, Aubry & Associés (1979-90)
Noël, Berthiaume, Aubry (1990-93)
Noël, Berthiaume (1994-98)
Noël & Associates (1998-2002)
|Justice Michael L. Phelan|
|Justice James Russell ||December 11, 2002|
|Justice Sandra J. Simpson ||1993||Fraser Milner Casgrain (1975 to 1993)|
The judges of this court are listed below.
|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|
|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||✓|
|James K. Hugessen||June 23, 1998||July 18, 1983||✓|
|Arthur J. Stone||July 18, 1983||✓|
|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||✓|
|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||✓|
|Alice Desjardins||June 29, 1987||✓|
|Frank Iacobucci||September 2, 1988||January 6, 1991|
|W. Andrew MacKay||September 2, 1988||✓|
|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||✓|
|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||✓|
|Francis J. McDonald||April 1, 1993||September 6, 2001|
|Frederick E. Gibson||April 1, 1993||✓|
|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||✓|
|J. Edgar Sexton||June 23, 1998||✓|
|Pierre Blais||June 23, 1998||✓|
|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||✓|
|Allan Lutfy||December 8, 1999||✓|
|Eleanor Dawson||December 8, 1999||✓|
|Carolyn Layden-Stevenson||January 25, 2002||✓|
|Johanne Gauthier||December 11, 2002||✓|
|Robin Camp |