The Federal Court of Canada was established in 1971 as the successor to the Exchequer Court of Canada which had been created in 1875.
A major reason for the new Court's creation was the increase in the number of federal boards and commissions and the realization that a national court was needed to review the decisions of the administrative tribunals. Speaking in the House of Commons when the legislation to create the new Court was being debated, Justice Minister Turner stated that the Federal Court would serve to balance the rights of the citizen and the state by providing recourse against bigness, alienation and distance from the decision-making power.
The Federal Court Act was amended by the Courts Administration Service Act, which came into force on July 2, 2003. The two divisions of the Federal Court became a separate court of appeal, continued under the name "Federal Court of Appeal", and a trial court, continued under the name "Federal Court". The short title of the Act is now the Federal Courts Act. To reflect these legislative changes, the Federal Court Reports, the official reports of the two courts was continued under the name "Federal Courts Reports" commencing with 2004, Volume 1. At the same time, the citation was changed to "F.C.R." to avoid confusion with the new neutral citation used by the Federal Court.
The jurisdiction of the Federal Court extends not only to judicial review but also to: actions by and against the Crown, admiralty, customs, labour relations, intellectual property law (patents, copyright, trade–marks and industrial designs), and citizenship and immigration. The Federal Court of Appeal hears appeals from the Federal Court and the Tax Court of Canada, and has jurisdiction to determine applications for judicial review from federal boards, commissions and tribunals listed in Federal Courts Act, section 28.
Section 58 of the Federal Courts Act provides that the Minister of Justice shall appoint or designate "a fit and proper person to be editor of the official reports of the decisions of the Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court" and further provides that "only the decisions or the parts of them that, in the editor's opinion, are of sufficient significance or importance to warrant publication in the reports" shall be included therein.
Section 58 further provides that the Minister "may appoint a committee of not more than five persons to advise the editor". Such an advisory committee was established late in 1999. The current members of this committee are: Douglas H. Mathew of Thorsteinssons LLP; Suzanne Thibaudeau, Q.C., of the Montreal office of Heenan Blaikie LLP; and Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman of Waldman & Associates. The Editor still deals, unassisted, with more than 1,700 judgments per year but now is able to call upon these prominent practitioners for an opinion to assist in the selection process in respect of cases which fall within their particular area of expertise. In recent years, the Reports Section has received from the Court's distribution office between 1,900 and 2,200 cases annually.
One purpose of the Federal Courts Reports Internet Service is to make available, free of charge, all decisions of the Federal Court of Appeal and of the Federal Court appearing in the official reports series either in full text or as digests. Prior to their publication in the Federal Courts Reports, these cases undergo a thorough editorial process which includes: copy editing and reference verification by Legal Research Editors; legal editing (the preparation of captions, headnotes, lists of cases, statutes and authors judicially considered as well as translation accuracy confirmation) by Legal Editors who are members of the legal profession; and proofreading by Legal Research Editors. This Internet service also provides, in electronic format, the full contents of the Reports for the Volume years 1993 to date. As provided for in subsection 58(4) of the Federal Courts Act, all materials published in the Reports are in both official languages.
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The Federal Courts Reports are published by the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada. The decisions and reasons for decisions of the Federal Court of Appeal and of the Federal Court fall within the terms of the Reproduction of Federal Law Order. P.C. 1996-1995, December 19, 1996, S1/97-5, and may be reproduced in whole or in part and by any means, without further permission. The headnotes and other editorial features do not fall within the terms of the Reproduction of Federal Law Order. The Crown in right of Canada owns the copyright therein.