Federal Court of Canada
The Federal Court of Canada was the court system set up by the Canadian national government to resolve disputes that arise under the national government's jurisdiction. It consisted of two divisions, a Trial Division and an Appeal Division (more commonly known as the Federal Court of Appeal). The Court existed from 1971 to 2003 when it was split into two separate Courts, now known as the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal.
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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 against the government (known as the Crown).
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 Trial Division could be appealed to the Appeal Division, and further appealed from the Appeal Division to the Supreme Court of Canada, after receiving leave, or permission, from the Supreme Court.
The court did not use juries so all matters were decided by judge alone – a single judge in the Trial Division and by a panel of 3 judges at the appeal level. Some pre-trial steps such as motions are decided by prothonotaries, a role similar to a master in other courts. The judges and prothonotaries are appointed by the Cabinet of the federal government.
Unlike the general courts set up by each province, matters could only be brought before the Federal Court of Canada if the law explicitly allowed the action. The docket of the court primarily consists of judicial reviews of immigration, intellectual property, and federal employment disputes. Judicial Review of decisions of federal agencies and tribunals can be made to the Federal Court or the Federal Court of Appeal, depending on the specific tribunal. The court can also deal with incidental aspects of a dispute that fall outside its jurisdiction if the primary dispute is within its jurisdiction.
The court is a national court so trials and hearings occur throughout Canada. Any orders rendered by the court are 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 federal government has the power to establish a court system under section 101 of the Constitution Act, 1867 which allows the government to create, "any additional Courts for the better Administration of the Laws of Canada." In 1875, the government established the Exchequer Court. This court, modelled on the court of the same name at the United Kingdom, primarily had jurisdiction over tax issues. Over time this court's jurisdiction expanded to other matters of federal jurisdiction.
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. The former Associate Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Canada (the head of the Trial Division) was promoted to Chief Justice of the Federal Court.