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ARCHIVED - RPP 2007-2008
Supreme Court of Canada

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I: Departmental Overview

A. Registrar's message

The role of the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court is to provide an administrative framework for the Supreme Court of Canada, one of the key institutions at the centre of Canadian democracy. The Supreme Court is the “general court of appeal” for Canada. Through its decisions, the Court settles disputes submitted to it by the parties and plays a leading role in the development of the country’s jurisprudence, which affects all Canadians. The goal of the Office of the Registrar is to ensure that Canadians are well served by their highest court.

For this purpose, the Office of the Registrar must facilitate the work of the judges and take the necessary steps to ensure that litigants and Canadian citizens have the access they need to the Court. It must therefore seek to make, on an ongoing basis, tangible improvements to the services provided to the judges, the legal community and the public at large. This Report on Plans and Priorities illustrates this long-term vision and describes the constant efforts being made to this end, which must take account of the importance attached to the Court’s institutional independence and the framework of sound public management.

Although the mandate of the Office of the Registrar is very stable, there is no shortage of challenges: complexity of the Court’s cases, dynamic technological environment, space management in a heritage building, changes in the human resources profile and multifaceted demands for access to the Court. The Office of the Registrar will continue to rely on a strengthened risk management process and the implementation of an integrated human resources plan to face these challenges and meet its goals. Front and centre among the key priorities for the coming year is moving forward with the Court modernization project, which will have profound ramifications for courtroom operation, information management processes and employees. The Office of the Registrar endeavours to maximize the synergies that exist among the various components of the project.

The Office of the Registrar is fortunate to be able to rely on dedicated and motivated managers and employees who are flexible and are guided in their work by the Public Service’s democratic, professional, ethical and people values. The results of the Public Service Employee Survey for the Office of the Registrar clearly illustrate the attachment of all employees to the institution and their desire to serve litigants and their fellow citizens to the best of their abilities. The Office of the Registrar seeks to strengthen employee adaptability and recruit people with new capabilities in order to continue contributing to the better administration of justice in Canada.

B. Management Representation Statement

I submit for tabling in Parliament, the 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) for the Supreme Court of Canada.

This document has been prepared based on the reporting principles contained in Guide for the Preparation of Part III of the 2007-2008 Estimates: Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports.

  • It adheres to the specific reporting requirements outlined in the TBS guidance;
  • It is based on the department's Strategic Outcome and Program Activity Architecture structure that were approved by the Treasury Board;
  • It presents consistent, comprehensive, balanced and reliable information;
  • It provides a basis of accountability for the results achieved with the resources and authorities entrusted to it; and
  • It reports finances based on approved planned spending numbers from the Treasury Board Secretariat.


Name: _____________________
Anne Roland


C. Summary Information

Raison d’être

As the final court of appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada serves Canadians by leading the development of common and civil law through its decisions on questions of public importance. The mandate of the Supreme Court of Canada is to have and exercise an appellate, civil and criminal jurisdiction within and throughout Canada, which it meets by hearing and deciding cases of public importance. In accordance with the Supreme Court Act, the Supreme Court of Canada consists of the Chief Justice and the eight Puisne Judges.

The Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada exists to provide the full gamut of services the Court needs in order to hear cases and render decisions, and serves as the interface between the litigants and the Court. The focus of this report is the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada.

More detailed information on the Court’s responsibilities, the hearing process and judgments is available on the Internet (

Financial Resources (in millions)


Human Resources (in Full-Time Equivalents)



Name Type
Process cases without delay Ongoing
Court modernization New
Manage risk Previously committed to
Build capacity Previously committed to

Program Activities by Strategic Outcome

Strategic Outcome: To provide the best decision-making environment for the Supreme Court of Canada
Program Activities Expected Results Contributes to the following priority
Process hearings and decisions
  • Process hearings and decisions promptly
  • Ensure the independence of the Court
  • Improve access to the Court and its services
  • Provide the information base that the Court needs to fulfil its mandate
  • Process cases without delay
  • Court modernization
  • Manage risk
  • Build capacity

Planned Spending ($millions)

  2007-08 2008-09 2009-10

Process Cases Without Delay


D. Departmental Plans and Priorities

Operating environment

The environment within which the Office of the Registrar must carry out its activities is continually evolving. The legal environment is becoming increasingly complicated and technological advancements place ongoing pressure on the Court to update its facilities, systems and services.

Changes and trends in court administration include:

• Continued focus on electronic exchange of information. Electronic tools continue to be more prevalent in the way courts deal with litigants and the public, as well as in the manner in which courts exchange information. There is an increasing and continuing expectation from stakeholders for electronic access to information and legal material (e.g., in the courtroom, in their offices, in the library, in the registry). Courts are adopting different e-filing practices depending on the nature of their caseload. The number of electronic cases from the lower courts is increasing. This highlights the need for greater interoperability with court users and between courts, and has important implications regarding public access to court files, and the development of information standards with respect to e-filing and how judicial information is created, kept and moved through the court system.

• Changes regarding access to court records. A Model Policy for Access to Court Records in Canada was issued by the Canadian Judicial Council in August 2006. Further, changes to the Access to Information Act, and new privacy legislation have implications in terms of privacy and on-line access to court information. The Office of the Registrar undertook a project to develop a policy for access to Court records that would be suitable to the requirements of the Court. A draft policy has been developed and will be finalized early in 2007-2008.

• Increasing number of cases involving secrecy, privacy and security concerns. Practices and policies to handle sensitive information vary between provinces and courts, and the Office of the Registrar must be able to deal with these differences. Cases involving the new anti-terrorism legislation require special attention. All of this has implications for the Office of the Registrar in terms of its ability to identify and manage sensitive court files, and requires a more integrated approach, greater adaptability, increased tightening up of its policies, practices and processes, additional safeguards in its case management system, and greater staff awareness.

• Increased sharing of information on processes and practices between courts. Increasingly, courts are sharing their experiences, on such matters as e-filing, performance measurement, etc., in a more open and forthcoming fashion and at an earlier stage, including successes, failures, and lessons learned. For example, the Office of the Registrar is also increasingly working in close collaboration with other legal communities on e-filing and information and data management. These exchanges of information have become more structured, through such venues as the Association of Canadian Court Administrators (ACCA).

• Reduced caseload of the Court. The workload of the Office of the Registrar in terms of caseload has been very stable over the last 10 years (around 90 appeals and 600 leave applications per year). However, in 2006 just over 500 leave applications were filed and the number of appeals to be heard in 2007 is expected to decrease to about 50. As it is not clear whether this reduction in caseload reflects a permanent trend or an anomaly, the Office of the Registrar will continue to monitor statistics closely. A similar downturn has been observed in the United States Supreme Court.


As in previous years, the key priority of the Office of the Registrar for 2007-2008 is the on-going processing of cases without delay. A second key priority has been added for 2007-2008 -Court modernization. It is expected that this priority will continue at least until the end of 2009-2010. These first two priorities are considered “program priorities”, as they focus on service to the Canadian public. In addition, the Office of the Registrar has two “management priorities”, both of which were previously committed to: the management of risks, and building capacity. For 2007-2008, this last priority will focus on the development of Human Resource Planning and its integration with business planning, the establishment of a communications program, and the development of an accommodation strategy.

Process cases without delay

The focus of the Office of the Registrar will continue to be to process cases without delay while maintaining stakeholder satisfaction and high standards of service quality, and to keep backlogs to a minimum.

Court modernization

The Office of the Registrar has recognized the requirement to modernize the courtroom for some time, and in 2006-2007, Treasury Board approved the courtroom audio-visual/information technology project, and provided funding totaling $5.1M over a two year period. The total cost of this project is estimated to be $6.5M over a three year period, with the difference being funded from existing reference levels. Work on this project has commenced. Efficiencies will be gained by leveraging investments in the courtroom with other modernization initiatives, most significantly an electronic document/records management system (EDRMS) and electronic filing of court documents (e-filing).

Manage risks

The Office of the Registrar has made progress in implementing an integrated approach for identifying, assessing and managing risks facing the Court. For example, a Project Management Office is being established to help mitigate the risks inherent in the successful completion of large scale, complex projects such as the courtroom audio-visual /information technology project; resource pressures will be dealt with through realignment of budgets; and significant staff turnover will be addressed as part of the Human Resource Planning initiative.

Build capacity

The major focus under this priority will be further development of an integrated business and human resource planning process. The Office of the Registrar implemented the first phase of its multi-phased approach to Integrated Human Resources Planning in 2005-2006. This first phase was designed to inform and motivate managers to build their Human Resource (HR) plan and as a result, a Human Resource Plan was produced for 2006-2007. The Office of the Registrar is currently implementing the next phase which will result in the finalization of its first Integrated Human Resources Plan by the end of March 2007. During 2007-2008, the Office of the Registrar plans to further enhance its integrated human resources planning process by developing and revising templates and guides, consulting with its management on refinements to the process, and communicating the new process to managers for implementation in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. The plan is dependent upon the availability of funds to engage external expertise, which will be required to supplement the existing functional specialists. To the extent possible, the Office of the Registrar will take advantage of opportunities for sharing expertise, such as via the HR Co-op Team and the Small Agency Transition Support Team.

A second aspect of the Build Capacity priority is the revamping of the internal communications strategy and plan. While there is generally a high satisfaction with internal communication, recent changes in the governance structure, particularly with respect to the roles of committees, has necessitated a review of the various methods used for internal communication.

The final aspect of the Build Capacity priority is the requirement for an accommodation strategy. All of the Office of the Registrar’s employees are housed in the Supreme Court building, which is at or near capacity. Given the heritage nature of the building, changes are not straight-forward. The Office of the Registrar will explore facility solutions in consultation with PWGSC to make a better utilization of space available.

Link to Government of Canada Outcome Areas

The Supreme Court of Canada is Canada’s highest court. It is the final general court of appeal, the last judicial resort for all litigants, whether individuals or governments. The Supreme Court stands at the apex of the Canadian judicial system, and as such is a fundamental element of the Canadian structure of government. Because of this position, the strategic outcome of the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada - “to provide the best decision-making environment for the Supreme Court” - contributes to all Government of Canada outcome areas.