The Honourable Pierre Blais, Chief Justice
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the appointment of the Honourable Pierre Blais as Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal on September 9, 2009. The swearing-in ceremony by the Governor General occurred on September 22nd, 2009.
The Federal Court of Appeal is a court established by Parliament in accordance with provision of section 101 of the Constitution Act, 1867, "for the better administration of the laws of Canada". As such, it is an important and integral part of the judiciary in Canada.
Independence of the judiciary, impartiality of the judges and access to justice are fundamental values in the eyes of all Canadians, and represent the very essence of a free and democratic society. The acceptance by the public of judicial decisions and public support of those decisions are dependent on the public's confidence in the integrity and independence of the judges. It is important, therefore, that the Federal Court of Appeal and its judges be perceived as independent and impartial.
As a democratic society, Canada has undergone some very important changes in the relationship between individuals and the state. The judiciary in Canada must have the necessary knowledge and experience to contribute significantly to the maintenance and ongoing evolution of our free and democratic society. The role of the courts as adjudicators of disputes, interpreters of the law and defenders of the Constitution and the Charter requires that their powers and functions be completely separate from all other stakeholders in the legal system. Canada's tradition of judicial independence guarantees that the courts will continue to be accessible to everyone and that the proceedings remain public, transparent and free of interference from the government. It is these guarantees that today maintain a strong judiciary in Canada.
The Court's decisions have an impact on the life of all Canadians — whether the subject matter be the food we eat, our entertainment or our means of transportation. The Court is also responsible for enforcing the various rights and obligations between Canadians and the federal government. It often decides issues pertaining to the social benefits granted to Canadians by the federal government, the level of taxation imposed on individuals and corporations by the federal government, and labour relations between the federal government and its employees.
The Federal Court of Appeal also affects, and is affected by, events on the international scene. It plays an essential role in the interpretation and implementation of Canada's international obligations.
The Court is readily accessible owing to its national and itinerant nature. The Court is itinerant in that it sits and hears cases in most major cities in Canada, in order to be as close as possible to the parties. It is a bilingual tribunal that provides its services in both of Canada's official languages. The Court is also bijural, because it administers the two legal systems of the common law and the civil law.