The Exchequer Court of Canada fonds

By Johanne Noël

Exchequer Court of Canada created in 1875

The Exchequer Court and the Supreme Court of Canada were created by the same legislation: the Supreme and Exchequer Courts Act. The Exchequer Court was in existence from 1875 until 1971, the year the Federal Court was created.

Since the Exchequer Court had fewer cases, they were heard by justices of the Supreme Court. These justices travelled across Canada for this purpose on a rotating basis from 1875 to 1887. In 1887, the Exchequer Court became a separate court; its first judge, the Honourable George Wheelock Burbidge, wrote the rules of procedure.

Black-and-white photo of a man with a moustache, wearing a suit and a white shirt.

George Wheelock Burbidge, September 1891. Photo: William James Topley (MIKAN 3213416)

Cases heard before the Exchequer Court

Cases argued before the Exchequer Court included actions brought against the federal government, such as claims arising from accidents involving civilian or military government vehicles. But the government could also initiate lawsuits in the Court, such as expropriations or measures related to intellectual property infringement (patents, industrial drawings and trademarks), as well as disputes between the different levels of government. The Exchequer Court also heard appeals from the admiralty courts and appeals related to maritime law, taxes and citizenship.

Records in the Exchequer Court fonds

The vast majority of records in the Exchequer Court fonds at Library and Archives Canada are files related to cases. Other documents include special work of the Court, correspondence, minutes of hearings, various records and dockets.


The Registrar of the Court kept a large record book, know as the docket record, in which he recorded cases in chronological order. For each case, he entered the number, the names of the plaintiff and the defendant, and the names of their respective solicitors. Throughout the proceedings, he listed the documents filed with the Court, the date they were filed and the cost of registration. A docket record could contain many cases and be up to 10 centimetres thick.

Cover of an album, bound in leather and worn corded velvet, on which is written: “Docket Record. Exchequer Court of Canada. 8435-12544. August 27, 1927–August 5, 1930”.

Cover of a docket record (MIKAN 4628412)

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