|| The Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court have a long history. Since
2003, they are the successors of the appeal and trial divisions of
the Federal Court of Canada, which in 1971 succeeded the Exchequer
Court of Canada which itself was created in 1875.|
When Canada was created, the British North America Act,
1867 (now Constitution Act, 1867) did not establish specific
courts but, by section 101, authorized the Parliament of Canada
to provide a "General Court of Appeal for Canada" and "any additional
Courts for the better Administration of the Laws of Canada." Pursuant
to this, a separate act establishing the Supreme Court of Canada
and the Exchequer Court of Canada was passed in 1875. For many years
Exchequer Court decisions were subject to appeal not only to the
Supreme Court but, ultimately, to the Judicial Committee of the
Privy Council in the United Kingdom. Appeals to the Privy Council
were abolished in 1949.
The "Laws of Canada" are generally accepted to be the federal
laws, as opposed to provincial legislation. The Exchequer
Court originally had a very limited exclusive jurisdiction:
revenue cases against the federal government. It also shared
jurisdiction with the provincial courts in actions by the
government to enforce federal revenue law or in relation to any
civil action at common law or in equity.
Over the life of the Exchequer Court, its jurisdiction gradually
increased and changed. Within the first twenty-five years, it
had acquired exclusive jurisdiction over all litigation brought
against the federal government, and its authority included
admiralty matters, as well as suits between citizens relating to
intellectual property like patents and trade marks. Tax and
citizenship matters became its concern. In 1960 it was given
non-exclusive jurisdiction as a superior court of criminal
jurisdiction for handling certain offences under the Combines
An increasing acceptance of responsibility of government in
relation to the citizen was reflected in expanding remedies
obtainable against the federal government. In 1887 the
government became subject to certain actions arising out of the
negligence of its officers, and the Crown Liability Act of 1952
put the government in the same position as a private citizen in
virtually all matters of tort. Some of the Court's exclusive
jurisdiction was lost at this stage, as it became possible to sue
the government in provincial courts in the matter of certain
torts where the claim was for less than one thousand dollars.
By way of the Federal Court Act, Exchequer Court
jurisdiction was inherited by its successor and augmented.
The most important new area was the Court's power to review
decisions of all federal boards, commissions or other tribunals.
The new Act also gave jurisdiction in claims respecting
aeronautics and interprovincial undertakings, and in matters
involving bills of exchange and promissory notes where the
Crown is a party.
Significant changes again occurred with the coming into force
of amendments to the Federal Court Act on February 1, 1992.
Parties seeking relief against the Crown were no longer
required to apply to the Federal Court but were given the
option of choosing the provincial courts, and the Federal Court
Trial Division's exclusive jurisdiction was retained only where
federal statutes expressly provided for it. At the same time the
judicial review procedure was revised and simplified, with the
Trial Division being given original jurisdiction except in
respect to specific boards for which review is available in the
Court of Appeal.
In addition to judicial review, the Federal Court of Canada was
given a broad jurisdiction including Crown, immigration, citizenship,
admiralty, customs, intellectual property, tax, labour relations,
transportation, communications, parole and penitentiary proceedings,
as well as some limited criminal jurisdiction.
Today, the Federal Courts, that is to say, the Federal Court of
Appeal and the Federal Court possess essentially the same jurisdiction
as the former divisions of the Federal Court of Canada. They have
been continued as courts of law, equity and admiralty, and as superior
courts of record having civil and criminal jurisdiction.