Public Law

Section 2

Lesson 4: Federal Courts 

Along with the various provincial and territorial court systems, Canada also has a federal court system, though it's much smaller and simpler. It consists essentially of two levels:

  • the Federal Court o. Canada (which has both a trial division and an appeal division)
  • the Supreme Court of Canada

The Federal Court of Canada

The Federal Court of Canada is a specialized court dealing with cases concerning the federal government-such as taxation problems or disputes between the provinces.

Cases involving trademarks, patents, and copyright also come before the Federal Court of Canada.

This court has both a Trial Division, where cases are first heard, and a Court of Appeal. So if a case originally heard in the Trial Division of the Federal Court is appealed, the appeal is heard in the Federal Court of Appeal. Any appeals b eyond this level go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Test Yourself:

2. In the spring of 1997 a national lobby group called the Council of Canadians launched an appeal to the Federal Court of Canada concerning the takeover of many Canadian newspapers by the company called Hollinger Inc. The Council of Canadians felt that Hollinge's control of Southam, the countr's largest chain of newspapers, would restrict freedom of the press in Canada.

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Council of Canadians had waited too long before launching its review and refused to hear the appeal. The Council now has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

a. Why would the Council of Canadians launch its appeal through the Federal Court of Appeal?

b. If most of the newspapers in Canada were owned by the same person or company, what danger is posed to news coverage in the country?

Turn to the Suggested Answers at the end of this lesson and compare your answers with the ones given there.

The Supreme Court of Canada

The highest court in the land is the Supreme Court of Canada. This court is an appeal court only; it hears appeals of cases from both the Federal Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal of each province and territory.

You have already seen a diagram of Albert's court system. What follows is a diagram of both the provincial and federal court systems.

Suggested Answers

    1. Traffic Division
    2. Civil Division
    3. Civil Division
    4. Criminal division or Youth Division, depending on Justi's age
    5. Family Division
    6. Criminal division or Youth Division, depending on Khali's age
    7. Youth Division
    8. Civil Division
    9. Traffic Division

    1. Since the Council is a federal organization, the Federal Court of Appeal would be the only court of appeal it could use. They could.t file an ordinary civil lawsuit because there was no infringement on any one individuals rights.
    2. If this situation existed, only one viewpoint on important issues concerning Canadians would be given significant circulation across the country. The result would be much like censorship in a dictatorship; the public would get only one side of the issues.