Welcome to the website of the Federal Court of Appeal.
The Federal Court of Appeal sits at the apex of Canada’s federal judiciary, subject only to review by the Supreme Court of Canada. The federal judiciary is one of three branches of Canada’s federal government, the other two branches being the federal Parliament and the federal executive. In this capacity, the federal judiciary plays an essential role in Canada’s governance, including, where appropriate, protecting and vindicating the rights of individuals.
Thousands of federal decision-makers operating under hundreds of legislative regimes in all sorts of federal areas of jurisdiction are subject to the Federal Court of Appeal by way of applications for judicial review, direct appeals and appeals from applications for judicial review decided by the Federal Court. Matters of constitutional law and administrative law – known as public law – commonly arise in these cases.
Alongside this public law jurisdiction – the country’s largest – the Federal Court of Appeal also hears hundreds of appeals each year from the Federal Court and the Tax Court of Canada. These appeals concern a wide variety of legal subject-matters central to Canadians’ safety, prosperity, and well-being, including tax, patents, trade-marks, copyrights, immigration, national security, maritime and social benefits matters.
The Court has a chief justice and ten other full‑time judges, plus supernumerary judges from time to time. The Court hears cases in both English and French in panels of three. The judges hail from all across Canada, bringing with them diverse perspectives and backgrounds. They travel to hear cases in 18 major centres spread across 7652 km, from Vancouver, B.C. in the west and St. John’s, NL in the east and, if requested, in centres in the far north.
By virtue of section 5.4 of the Federal Courts Act, a complement of judges on the Court must be appointed from the Quebec Court of Appeal or the Quebec Superior Court or must have been a member of the Quebec Bar for a minimum of ten years. This recognizes Canada’s bijural reality and the need for the Federal Court of Appeal to accommodate it. Many aspects of Quebec law, including the Civil Code of Québec, can shape the interpretation and application of federal laws and the legal rules in all areas of the Court’s jurisdiction. The Court must ensure that its pronouncements – binding across Canada – work fairly, effectively, and practically, regardless of whether the backdrop is a common law system or a civil law system.
As a practical matter, for approximately 95% of the litigants coming before it, the Federal Court of Appeal is the highest Court in the land – the Supreme Court of Canada considers, with leave, only a small fraction of the cases decided by the Court.
I hope that your visit to the website of the Federal Court of Appeal is rewarding!
The Honourable Pierre Blais, Chief Justice
retired June 23, 2014