The Federal Court's jurisdiction - its scope of authority to hear and decide issues - extends across the federal landscape.

National Coverage

Geographically, the Court may sit anywhere in Canada and regularly conducts hearings and renders decisions in disputes across the country, with Registry offices conveniently located in all major cities. Orders of the Court are binding in every province and territory, thus providing efficient, national coverage.

Federal Subject Matter

Unlike the Superior Courts established by the provinces, the Federal Court does not have inherent, general jurisdiction. In order for the Federal Court to have authority to hear a given subject matter:

  1. that subject matter must be assigned to Parliament under the Constitution; and
  2. there must be actual, existing and applicable federal law; and
  3. the administration of that law must have been conferred upon the Federal Court.

More specifically, the jurisdiction of the Federal Court is conferred by the Federal Courts Act and, at present, close to a hundred other applicable federal statutes. These give the Court authority to hear and decide cases in a number of broad categories:

National Security

The Federal Court is assigned responsibility for reviewing:

  • security certificates
  • warrant requests
  • applications regarding the public disclosure of evidence.

Review of Federal Government Decisions

The Federal Court has exclusive jurisdiction to review the legality of actions of most federal offices, boards, commissions, and tribunals. On this basis, most government decisions at the federal level may be challenged in the Federal Court, including but not limited to decisions regarding:

  • citizenship, immigration and refugee matters
  • elections
  • official languages
  • access to information
  • privacy
  • passports
  • prisoners in federal institutions
  • war veterans
  • application of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights
  • environmental impact assessment
  • public works
  • national defence
  • public service employment
  • aeronautics and transportation
  • oceans and fisheries
  • First Nations
  • intellectual property rights

Some federal matters, set out in the Federal Courts Act, are subject to review in the Federal Court of Appeal rather than the Federal Court.

Claims involving the Federal Crown

The Federal Court shares jurisdiction with the provincial superior courts with respect to claims by and against the federal Crown. The Court's jurisdiction with respect to Crown litigation involves a range of significant disputes, including:

  • First Nations' claims regarding inherent aboriginal rights and treaty rights
  • contractual disputes relating to the provision of goods and services to the federal government
  • civil liability claims for injury by agents of the federal government

Intellectual Property

The Federal Court has extensive jurisdiction to resolve disputes regarding intellectual property rights, including:

  • copyright
  • industrial design
  • integrated circuits
  • patents and patented medicines
  • trade-marks

Maritime and Admiralty Disputes

The Federal Court has extensive jurisdiction to resolve maritime and admiralty disputes

Finally, the Federal Court's jurisdiction also includes, but is not limited to, interprovincial and federal-provincial disputes and appeals under certain federal statutes. A general list of statutes assigning jurisdiction to the Court is provided separately.


Date Modified: 2015-11-23