Canada's Admiralty Court in the Twentieth Century

By Stone, Arthur J. | McGill Law Journal, May 2002 | Go to article overview

Canada's Admiralty Court in the Twentieth Century


Stone, Arthur J., McGill Law Journal


The author outlines the debate surrounding the creation of Canada's admiralty court. This debate was fuelled by the desire for autonomy from England and the disagreement amongst Canadian politicians regarding which court was best suited to exercise admiralty jurisdiction. In 1891, more than thirty years after this debate began, the Exchequer Court of Canada, a national admiralty court, was declared, replacing the unpopular British vice-admiralty courts. The jurisdiction of this court was generally consistent with the existing English admiralty jurisdiction; it was not until 1931 that Canada was able to decide the jurisdiction of its own court. Since then, this jurisdiction has been enlarged by federal legislative measures, most notably the Federal Court Act of 1971, which continued the Exchequer Court under the Federal Court of Canada.

An understanding of Canadian maritime law is crucial in order to comprehend fully the new, broadened jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Canada. The author traces the historical roots of maritime law back to the ancient sea codes and ordinances of continental Europe and to Roman law. Maritime law has continued to evolve in the hands of judges and the legislature and will continue to do so, making a place for Canada's own admiralty court among the leading admiralty courts of the world.

L'auteur traite du debat ayant entoure la creation d'ane Cour d'amiraute au Canada. Ce debat etait alimente par la volonte d'une plus grande autonomie vis-a-vis l'Angleterre, de meme que par le desaccord entre les politiciens canadiens quant a la cour la plus appropriee pour avoir juridiction en matiere de droit maritime. En 1891, apres plus de trente ans de debats, fut creee la Cour de l'Echiquier du Canada, une cour d'amiraute nationale qui remplaqa les impopulaires cours britanniques de vice-amiraute. La juridiction de cette cour etait generalement en accord avec la juridiction des cours d'amiraute britanniques; il fallut attendre 1931 pour que le Canada soit capable de decider de la juridiction de ses propres tribunaux. Depuis cette date, cependant, la juridiction de la Cour canadienne d'amiraute a ete elargie par une serie de mesures legislatives federales, particulierement la Loi sar la Cour federale de 1971, laquelle confirma l'existence de la Cour de l'Echiquier sous l'autorite de la Cour federale du Canada.

Une bonne comprehension du droit maritime canadien est primordiale pour bien saisir la juridiction nouvelle et elargie de la Cour federale du Canada en la matiere. A cet effet, l'auteur retrace les racines historiques du droit maritime jusqu'aux anciens codes de la mer de l'Europe continentale et du droit romain. Le droit maritime canadian a continue d'evoluer par l'action conjointe des tribunaux et de la legislature, et cette tendance continuera encore, permettant ainsi a la Cour d'amiraute du Canada de se situer parmi les plus grandes cours d'amiraute du monde.

Introduction

I.    Birth and Development of the Court

      A. Early Developments
      B. A Maritime Court for Ontario
      C. Canada's First National Admiralty Court

II.   Jurisdiction of the Court

      A. Early Background
      B. Inherited Statutory Jurisdiction
      C. Inherited Non-Statutory Jurisdiction
      D. Canadian Statutory Jurisdiction Conferred
      E. "Canadian Maritime Law"
      E Concurrent Jurisdiction
      G. Equitable Jurisdiction
      H. Exercise of Jurisdiction

III.  Content and Sources of Canadian Maritime Law

      A. The Law Administered by the Court
      B. Modern Sources of Maritime Law
      C. Ancient Sources of Maritime Law

IV. Judicial Reform of Canadian Maritime Law

Conclusion

Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to trace the evolution of Canada's national admiralty court, its jurisdiction, and the law that it administered during the last century.

I. Birth and Development of the Court

Canada has had its own national admiralty court for the past ll0 years. …

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