In 2016–17, the Judicial Services program addressed critical needs to support the proper functioning of the judicial system.
Building on work performed in the previous year, Judicial Services took further steps in 2016–17 to increase the e-services capacity of the Courts and to make resources more readily available. In particular, considerable efforts were employed to address and adapt to the impacts of accelerating technological change on the Courts and their operations.
Judicial Services also invested considerable time and effort over the last fiscal year in addressing the impacts of increases in the number of complex and lengthy cases. The Courts have jurisdiction over a wide range of matters including immigration and refugee protection, intellectual property, application of income tax and other revenue-related laws, as well as matters pertaining to national security, aboriginal claims and environmental assessment. Cases that involve more complex matters of law, such as constitutional challenges, intellectual property, Aboriginal claims, immigration and taxation, often require a greater level of resources devoted to case preparation and to provide support to members of the courts and the registries. To improve timeliness in the area of Aboriginal litigation, new Aboriginal Litigation Practice Guidelines were implemented in 2016–17. These guidelines set out procedural options and best practices to assist the Courts, and lawyers and the parties they represent in this area of law.
Judicial Services also augmented its logistical support in 2016–17 due to the increase in the number of court committees and working groups supporting the Rules and Bar Liaison Committees.
As in previous years, the volume of court decisions requiring translation continued to increase in 2016–17. To meet this growing need, Judicial Services explored new approaches, including the new technologies, to meet translation requirements and invested in increased revision capacity to better meet demands.
In 2016–17, the Registry Services program continued to deliver timely services to litigants and the Courts across Canada despite facing increasing workloads and demands.
To manage the high-volume workload over the course of the year, efforts were deployed to address impacts resulting from an increasing complexity of case files on registry resources. Where possible, resources were reallocated to provide additional support in validating and processing intellectual property, Aboriginal claims, taxation, and immigration files. Additional resources were also deployed to assist with the exponential increase in motions, particularly in cases where constitutional questions were being raised in the context of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In an effort to move towards a digital environment and replace the paper-based systems currently in use, work continued in 2016–17 to develop requirements and funding options for a fully integrated Courts Registry Management System (CRMS). A modern CRMS would allow for efficiencies resulting from e-filing of court documents and automating workflows. It would also improve the gathering of data to support CAS’ performance measures.
The re-engineering of operational training also remained a top priority for the registries in 2016–17. The new approach to training helped address workload pressures, incorporated best practices and emerging trends, addressed scheduling issues, and introduced changes in format and delivery methods to more aptly meet evolving operational requirements within the registries. Work was also done to streamline, modernize and improve the quality of training nationwide and to ensuring that employees had the up-to-date knowledge of the rules and processes required to enhance service delivery levels. New delivery mechanisms were also explored to better meet registry training requirements.
In 2016–17, CAS continued to manage its available resources in a fiscally prudent manner allocating funds to the most pressing priorities. However, despite all possible efforts, CAS’ limited resources represented an ongoing challenge. As such, CAS continued to work with the government to seek additional funding for essential support services for the Courts and ongoing operational sustainability.
Over the course of 2016–17, investments in physical security enhancements were made at CAS offices across Canada. This included a number of facilities improvements, security equipment, and new procedures to protect all who work in, attend or visit the Courts. To enhance the organization’s security response capabilities, emergency plans were reviewed and strategic partnerships were established.
Over the course of the year, CAS began implementing its multi-year plan to update critical IT infrastructure and enhance enabling technology in order to address risks and operate more efficiently. This is part of CAS’ ongoing priority to provide enabling and modern IM/IT infrastructure supportive of the requirements of the Courts and robust access to justice. It is also necessary work to establish a solid foundation for a modern CRMS.
CAS refined elements of its project management framework in 2016–17, as well as associated policies, procedures and tools to ensure clear direction and continued alignment of the framework with the scope and risks of CAS projects. A new National Accommodation Strategic Plan was also finalized in 2016–17 to clearly define the immediate and long-term special purpose accommodations requirements of the Courts. In addition, advancements were made in the development of plans to address issues relating to the storage of judicial records.
Progress was also made in the finalization of a new three-year integrated HR plan which is being implemented beginning in 2017–18. This plan will enable CAS to have a structured approach in the planning of human resources activities and have the right people in the right place at the right time today and for the future. In addition, to support the management of human resources across the organization, advancements were made in succession planning and an organizational learning and development plan was established.
CAS also continued to address occupational health and safety, duty to accommodate and universal accessibility requirements in 2016–17 to the extent possible. These efforts support CAS’ commitment to ensure the well-being of members of the Courts and employees and demonstrate the organization’s efforts to provide accessibility for the mobility impaired.