The Judicial Services program is critical to the provision of key services to members of the courts. The program provides support essential to the proper functioning of the judicial system. In 2015–16, the Deputy Chief Administrator of Judicial and Registry Services, along with the Executive Directors and General Counsel, and Senior Legal Counsel continued to address a number of important strategic and management issues in support of CAS’s mandated responsibility of safeguarding the independence of the courts. Critical issues addressed during this cycle included matters relating to Shared Services Canada, proposed amendments to the Access to Information Act, and the interpretation and application of the Official Languages Act. Judicial Services also provided legal advice to the four Chief Justices and other members of the courts, as well as logistical and substantive support to the respective Rules and Bar Liaison Committees maintained by the courts. These include statutory Rules Committees; general as well as specialized practice liaison committees with the Canadian Bar Association, and other bar associations; and regional bar liaison committees and liaison activities.
In 2015–16, the number of court decisions requiring translation continued to increase in volume and exerted a corresponding pressure on insufficient resources. In response, CAS undertook a thorough review of its translation service model to find innovative ways to identify savings, deliver this service, harness the potential of available technology, increase efficiency and better facilitate the timely posting of court decisions. Furthermore, efforts were made to deploy additional resources to meet this priority and translation technology was also tested. However, considerable investments are still required to increase translation capacity to the desired level.
Building on plans to improve access to justice to self-represented litigants (SRLs) and making resources available in a timely and cost-effective manner, Judicial Services took steps to improve access to the courts practice directions and provided, where possible, easy-to-follow steps for filing proceedings and navigating SRLs through the hearing stage process.
Judicial Services continued to assist with the review of the Federal Courts Rules to pave the way for electronic service and future possibilities for increased use of technology to better support the needs of the courts and eliminate impediment to the eventual migration from paper records to electronic records and electronic processing. It should be noted, however, that a significant infusion of funds is required in order to accommodate a full range of electronic services beyond those available at this time.
Finally, CAS launched its newest version of the library e catalogue; this improved version is designed to better meet the information and research requirements of members of the courts and employees.
In 2015–16, the registries of the federal courts continued to maintain service levels despite being pushed to operate beyond capacity and with ongoing increases in workload. These increases stem from a number of factors including the rise in the number of self-represented litigants (who typically require more assistance than litigants represented by lawyers), legislative amendments, as well as the length, the greater complexity and the nature of hearings. The Registry Services strived, within the limits of its resources, to address the impact of workload pressures while continuing to ensure the smooth and efficient operations of the four federal courts.
The re-engineering of operational training remained a top priority for the registries. Efforts were devoted to delivering essential training and ensuring that employees had the up-to-date knowledge of the rules and processes required to enhance service delivery levels. Work was also done to streamline, modernize and improve the quality of operational training nationwide. While focus was placed on training related to the release of the second generation of the Digital Audio Recording System (DARS II), attention was also given to other high priority training requirements. Operational training for Registry Officers and Judicial Assistants was also predicated on the distinct requirements of each court and calibrated to take into consideration their individual and unique characteristics.
Sustained pressure on the federal courts from legal profession and litigants to facilitate the delivery of services within an electronic environment continued to impact the work of the registries and the courts. To continue to take steps to remove obstacles to e-services, and to pave the way for future possibilities for increased use of technology to better support court requirements, CAS maintained its effort to seek additional funding for investments in the Courts and Registry Management System and the IT infrastructure required to render it capable of supporting electronic document management and the provision of integrated e-services.
Finally, the implementation of DARS II will set the stage for the installation of DARS III, a network version. Efforts exerted to meet this objective included extensive planning and consultation with the courts in 2015–16.
In 2015–16, in order to ensure ongoing operations and mitigate technological risks to the extent possible, CAS focused its IM/IT plans on addressing the high priority issues identified by the IT Architecture and Computing Environment Assessment. In particular, progress was made to improve network performance and resolve deficiencies, based on available funding. Efforts were also deployed to secure funding for planned IT activities. Budget 2016 provided $7.9 million over five years to invest in IT infrastructure upgrades to safeguard the efficiency of the federal court system. This funding will allow CAS to implement a five-year IT infrastructure management plan to address rust-out, implement necessary upgrades and address gaps in the IT infrastructure that supports the courts.
Budget 2015 allocated $19 million over five years, starting in 2015–16, to enhance physical and IT security at the federal courts and registry offices. Important progress was made to strengthen security measures that protect the courts, their users, information and assets. CAS also continued to maintain its relationships with the law enforcement community to help mitigate security risks and support CAS’s ability to meet its objectives. By implementing new processes, realigning service delivery and reviewing its plans, CAS also strengthened its capacity to prevent, mitigate, and recover from security incidents in a systematic and consistent way.
CAS worked with Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC) on the planned relocation of its Québec office and efforts were spent to secure funding for this initiative. Budget 2016 announced up to $2.6 million over two years for the relocation, thereby ensuring continued federal courts presence in Québec City.
During the period covered by this report, CAS supported the government-wide back office modernization project and assisted with the migration of all pay and human resources systems to Phoenix and My GCHR. CAS also continued to work towards ensuring the proper alignment of information management with modern principles, practices and standards. Work continued to identify a document management system which will act as a central repository to create, store and manage information resources of business value.