The Federal Court of Appeal, over which I have the privilege and honour to preside as Chief Justice, has jurisdiction to hear appeals from judgments of the Federal Court and the Tax Court of Canada. In addition, the Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear judicial review applications with respect to sixteen (16) federal boards and tribunals listed under section 28 of the Federal Courts Act. It also hears appeals pursuant to other federal legislation. The Court is currently composed of fifteen judges.
My first task as Chief Justice is to ensure that the Court has the capacity to issue decisions that are well reasoned, just and fair. In order to achieve this goal, the Court relies on judges who are competent in a number of specialized areas.
The appeals that come to the Federal Court of Appeal deal with a wide range of issues which touch upon distinct and specialized areas of the law. Amongst those are tax law, maritime law, immigration law, aboriginal law, intellectual property and national security.
The Federal Court of Appeal is a traveling Court. The judges of our Court, who sit in panels of three, hear cases in English and in French in eighteen (18) cities, from Vancouver to St. John’s including locations in the North.
This country-wide mission is intended to ensure that federal legislation is applied in a uniform and constant manner across the country, while taking into consideration the private law in the province or territory where the litigation arises.
To that end, section 5.4 of the Federal Courts Act provides that five of the judges of the Federal Court of Appeal must be persons who have been judges of the Court of Appeal or of the Superior Court of the Province of Québec, or have been members of the bar of that Province. This provision recognizes the bijural role of the Court, and echoes section 24 of the Québec Civil Code of Procedure which recognizes the Court’s jurisdiction in civil matters in that province.