Lesson 6: Federal Courts

Topic 2: Federal Trial and Appeal Courts

Federal Trial Court

The Federal Court was formerly called the Court of the Exchequer. The court has existed in some form since 1875 and came to its present form in 2003 when the two divisions of the Federal Court (the Trial Division and Appeal Division) were split in two separate courts: The Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal.

The Federal Court hears disputes originating in judgments from:

  • Civil matters involving disputes by individuals or groups with the federal government
  • Disputes by provincial governments with the federal government
  • Cases in specialized areas of federal law, including income tax, patents, customs, and maritime law

Like most other federal agencies, the Federal Court is based in Ottawa, but its judges travel around the country “on circuit.” At present, the Court consists of a Chief Justice and 32 other judges.

These judges are appointed by the federal government and are addressed in court as “My Lord” or “Your Lordship” or “My Lady” or “Your Ladyship”. The court does not have juries.

Federal Court of Appeal

The Federal Court of Appeal reviews decisions that have been made by the Federal Trial Court, as well as federally appointed administrative tribunals such as the Immigration Appeal Board and the National Parole Board (Canada’s System of Justice).

The Federal Trial Court hears an initial dispute, and, if either party is unhappy, the decision can be appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal. Federal Court of Appeal decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.