Departmental Plan 2021-22
The Courts Administration Service (CAS) was established on July 2, 2003, with the coming into force of the Courts Administration Service Act, S.C. 2002, c. 8 (CAS Act). CAS’s raison d’être is to provide administrative services to four superior courts of record — the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA), the Federal Court (FC), the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada (CMAC) and the Tax Court of Canada (TCC). Placing administrative services at arm’s length from the Government of Canada safeguards judicial independence while enhancing accountability for the use of public money. CAS recognizes the independence of the Courts in the conduct of their own affairs and aims to provide each with quality and efficient judicial, registry, and administrative services.
Mandate and role
As stated in section 2 of the CAS Act, CAS is mandated to:
- facilitate coordination and cooperation among the FCA, the FC, the CMAC and the TCC for the purpose of ensuring the effective and efficient provision of administrative services;
- enhance judicial independence by placing administrative services at arm’s length from the Government of Canada and by affirming the roles of Chief Justices and judges in the management of the Courts; and
- enhance accountability for the use of public money in support of court administration while safeguarding the independence of the judiciary.
Operating context and key risks
In 2021-22, the environment within which CAS operates will remain complex and challenging, owing in part to the following.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the courts and the CAS's business will significantly influence the operating environment. Consequently, the Courts and CAS must continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, working within public health restrictions, to ensure access to justice for Canadians. To respond to risks posed by the pandemic, a layered risk-management approach will be adopted, with a combination of preventive and mitigation measures, which will be deployed concurrently to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of members of the Courts, court users, CAS employees and the Canadian public. However, given the pandemic's rapidly evolving nature, this posture will be adjusted as required to respond to each Court's unique operational requirements while adhering to the latest public health advice. Different regional responses may also be required depending on local public health authorities' directions across the country.
Judicial independence is a cornerstone of the Canadian judicial system. Under the Constitution, the judiciary is separate from and independent of the executive and legislative branches. It is a guarantee that judges will make decisions free of influence based solely on facts and law. Judicial independence has three components: security of tenure, financial security and administrative independence. Safeguarding the principle of judicial independence is a key operational consideration for CAS when providing services to the Courts, as well as in supporting the roles of the Chief Justices and judges in the management of the Courts.
Distinct Requirements of the Courts
Services required by the judiciary - including registries, hearing-related activities, legal counsel, judicial administrators, law clerks, jurilinguists, judicial assistants, library personnel and court attendants - are provided as directed by the Chief Justices. The Courts' national and itinerant nature also requires CAS to provide support to members of the Courts and deliver court and registry services in various locations across the country. As such, the individual and unique requirements of each of the Courts, the distinct nature of the Courts' business, and the characteristics of the Canadian judicial system are all factors that CAS must consider when delivering services to the Courts. Additionally, CAS needs to accommodate each Court's practices and guidelines and their distinct requirements in managing operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Volume and complexity of cases before the Courts
The volume of cases before the Courts is a key factor in providing the level of support required, particularly in delivering registry and judicial services. This volume can be somewhat unpredictable, as changes in legislation and regulations, policy decisions, and precedents from judgements can influence the number of cases submitted before the Courts. Also, the nature and increasing complexity of the cases filed can considerably influence the Courts and registries' workloads, particularly in those related to national security, intellectual property, Aboriginal claims, taxation and immigration - which can exacerbate resource pressures, including the level of judicial and registry support. Moreover, Government of Canada policy initiatives introduced since the beginning of the pandemic, including COVID-19 relief taxation programs, are expected to generate increased workload pressures for the Courts and CAS.
Demands for digital services
Today, court users routinely conduct business online and demand the same services from the Government of Canada as they receive from private sector organizations. Emerging technologies and new digital services trends are vital considerations for CAS in its service delivery and systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has also underscored the Courts requirement to strengthen capacity to provide online services to meet augmented demands. Hence, CAS will make investments and improvements in its IT systems and infrastructure to enhance the ability to conduct the Courts' business digitally. This will include the implementation of a new Courts and Registry Management System (CRMS).
Service delivery capacity
CAS's ability to provide the required level of mandated services to meet the Courts' operational needs and associated services to litigants and their legal counsel is dependent on available financial and human resources. CAS will continue with its efforts to ensure that the organization has the resources necessary to deliver the level of services required by the Courts. This is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as CAS must adapt to respond to the changing needs in the delivery of judicial, registry, and administrative services to accommodate the Courts' operational requirements while adhering to the latest public health restrictions. In addition, CAS will pursue its transformative agenda and implement initiatives identified in its Strategic Business Plan 2020-25 to establish the foundational elements required to deliver better services to the Courts in the exercise of their judicial responsibilities and respond to the evolving expectations of Canadians.
CAS's ability to provide the level of mandated services required by the Courts depends largely on its workforce's strength. A robust and effective judicial and registry services provider needs a specialized skilled workforce at its disposal with various experiences and expertise. These include strong knowledge of the jurisdiction of each Court. Given the unique skill sets required, CAS must often compete with other courts across Canada or other federal departments to attract and retain skilled employees. Accordingly, CAS will invest in building an agile, diverse, high-performing and innovative organization that is responsive to the Courts, court users, and Canadians. A key focus will be to develop strategies to attract, retain and develop a bilingual, diverse, engaged and highly skilled workforce to deliver the range of judicial, registry and administrative services and advance the modernization and digitization of services to the Courts. Additionally, CAS's mature workforce highlights the need for succession planning, talent management and knowledge management strategies.
To address effectively the risks faced by the organization, CAS has an integrated risk management process through which corporate risk profiles are developed and used to update its Enterprise Risk Management Framework each fiscal year. This process is applied consistently throughout CAS and engages the most senior levels of the organization - the Chief Justices of the Courts, the Departmental Audit Committee, the Executive Committee, and the Senior Management Committee - in the identification and evaluation of the most pertinent risks for the organization, and the determination of appropriate response strategies to manage these risks effectively. Assigned risk owners are responsible for monitoring risks and the effectiveness of mitigation strategies and reporting quarterly on results.
The following outlines the critical drivers, potential impacts and most significant risk response strategies for each of the key corporate risks identified for 2021-22.
There is a risk that COVID-19 will seriously and negatively impact the health and wellbeing of employees and members of the Courts; will impose unaffordable demands on the limited resources of the organization; and disrupt the operations of the Courts and CAS in the delivery of access to justice for all Canadians.
This risk is driven by the evolving impacts of the pandemic on Canada and internationally; unpredictable implications of the virus on the Courts' work; and anticipated public health recommendations/restrictions; and the pandemic's expected significant impact on the manner of delivery of services to the Courts. Additionally, unforeseen and non-discretionary incremental costs to manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including costs of IT infrastructure, hardware and software enforcing cleaning requirements and social distancing, have the potential to significantly and negatively impact CAS's already limited budget. Should this cost be further increased without supplemental funding to cover these potential and anticipated costs, there is a risk that CAS could return to a state of program integrity.
Mitigation measures might include necessary alterations to the service and business delivery models and the implementation of protocols to avoid the potential transmission of COVID-19. CAS will also continue to utilize a layered, risk mitigation approach with a combination of preventive measures used concurrently to limit the possible transmission of the COVID-19 virus and protect the health and safety of members of the Courts, court users, CAS employees and the public. CAS will support remote work and services, including the electronic filing of court documents and hold virtual hearings as much as possible, based on the Courts' operational requirements. Several programs and services to promote employee wellness and resiliency, including focusing on mental health, physical well-being, training, and advice on adapting to working remotely, will also continue to be offered. To keep employees informed of the latest developments regarding the pandemic, CAS will implement measures and make resources and tools available to members of the Courts and employees, will be communicated. CAS will also seek additional funding through the budget process to cover incremental, recurring and ongoing costs related to measures implemented to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Courts and Registry Management System (CRMS)
There is a risk that system applications and infrastructure will be unable to respond to the evolving requirements of the Courts, litigants and CAS, impacting service delivery efficiency and access to justice.
Many factors are driving this risk including the growing public demand for access to new technology and digital services from the Courts. Other notable drivers are the compatibility of new technology with current systems and the results of various assessments of CAS’s network architecture and computing environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has also given increased focus to the urgent requirement for the Courts to provide online services to meet augmented demands.
As part of its risk response strategies, CAS will move forward with the procurement and implementation of a new CRMS. CAS will also proceed with several projects aimed at facilitating digital court services. This includes working with the Courts to enhance e-filing capabilities and establish more courtrooms to accommodate virtual trials. In addition, network infrastructure enhancements will be undertaken to modernize digital services, and prepare for the new CRMS.
Organizational Transformation and Change Management
There is a risk that resistance or an incapacity to adapt to a new operating environment will impede the achievement of organizational objectives.
Many factors are driving this risk, including technological advancements; rapidly evolving expectations of members of the Courts, litigants, lawyers and court users; and the ambitious transformative agenda of the CAS Strategic Business Plan 2020-25. To respond to this risk and facilitate a successful transition during this period of significant change as CAS advances its service and business transformation, investments will be made in change management to ensure the effective delivery of expected results and outcomes.
There is a risk of loss, damage or inability to access records of business value or historical jurisprudence that may in turn, impact decision-making.
A confluence of drivers will continues to propel this risk in 2021-22. The most prescient drivers are: stringent rules and regulations regarding the safeguard of court documents; need for classification schemes to define court and judicial information, including security and handling methods; need to improve management of corporate data/information; absence of backup for paper court records; lack of resources to safeguard original document in an alternative format; the potential impact of loss of information of business value; the precedent-setting nature and historical importance of judicial information held by CAS; repeated public demands for digital services and the corresponding need to share information electronically; inability of current systems to meet evolving IM needs; delays in addressing identified system gaps; and the need for the implementation of CAS’s document management system to operational areas.
Risk response strategies include the rigorous application of corporate information management practices including retention and disposition schedules; analyzing options to digitize court records; and onboarding operational areas and the regional offices to the corporate electronic document and record management system. Additionally, CAS will continue to ensure suitable conditions for storing archived court documents, including space for storing and archiving hard copy court documents.
Access to Justice
There is a risk that the funding model for the Courts could compromise access to justice and impact the judicial independence of the Courts.
Risks related to access to justice will continue to be driven by a number of factors including the scope and complexity of the federal courts system; the increasing workloads faced by the Courts; technological advancements; public demands for online services; non-discretionary work associated with the escalation in the number of multi-day hearings; yearly increases in the number of documents received by the Courts; and increases in the number of self-represented litigants.
Without a funding model that can proportionally accommodate future needs, there remains a risk that CAS may revert into program integrity. To respond this risk, CAS will continue to engage with central agencies to identify an appropriate funding model for the Courts and CAS.
There is a risk that the security of information IT infrastructure could be compromised.
CAS’s IT security risk will be driven by a number factors in 2021-22. These include the increase in the number of files that are sensitive; the ongoing need for enabling infrastructure and tools to support security, confidentiality, integrity and privacy of information; the need to protect the safety and security of the critical IT infrastructure of the Courts and CAS; repeated calls for digital services from the Courts; results of various assessments of CAS’s network, architecture and computing environment conducted over the past few years; the emergence of new technology (including Artificial Intelligence and quantum computing); and an large number of employees working and providing administrative services to the Courts remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most critical risk response strategies remain the implementation of measures that improve the IT security posture of the Courts and CAS, including software and hardware enhancements to systems and IT infrastructure, maintaining sound network access controls and supporting the objectives of the Government of Canada’s National Cyber Security Strategy.
There is a risk that the physical security of the members of Courts, court users, employees and facilities could be compromised.
Increases in number of national security files, an upturn in the number of self-represented litigants, and increasing demands on limited resources will continue to drive this risk in 2021-22.
To respond to this risk, CAS will put in place the necessary measures to address findings of the latest threat and risk assessment; continue to implement comprehensive security programs; make enhancements to the physical security of facilities where required; keep its business continuity plans updated; and continue to adopt strategic risk-based approaches to security management. CAS will also maintain ongoing collaboration with the law enforcement community across Canada to inform strategic security decisions and strengthen services provided to the Courts.
Gender based analysis plus
|Institutional GBA+ Capacity||
CAS is committed to utilizing GBA+ developing policies, programs and initiatives, including considering differentiated impacts on diverse groups of women, men and non-binary people. The CAS Responsibility Center for developing, monitoring and implementing GBA+ practices is the Human Resources Directorate, which is responsible for collaborating with other portfolio leads within the organization to develop an approach to ensure the proper application of GBA+ analysis in decision-making.
At present, some GBA+ analysis is included in Budget requests and Treasury Board Submissions. Plans are also in place to increase collection and conduct more in-depth GBA+ research of program data to support corporate decisions. Plans are also currently being formulated to establish linkages among GBA+, diversity and anti-racism initiatives to facilitate efficiency and effectiveness. CAS has also approved and is in the process of implementing its Anti-racism Strategy 2020-25 aimed at eliminating systemic barriers and proactively address racial inequities and unconscious biases in organizational systems and decisions. While the strategy's goal is to ensure equity of treatment and an inclusive, safe and healthy environment for all employees regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, colour, or creed, discussions are being held to determine how GBA+ can be further advanced through the implementation of the strategy.
Meanwhile, CAS has appointed a GBA+ Champion, as well as an Anti-racism Champion for the organization. The Chief Administrator Anti-Racism Consultation and Action Committee acts as a diverse forum to engage management and maintain ongoing discussions.
|Highlights of GBA+ Results Reporting Capacity||
Improving data collection and reporting capacity on GBA+ will be explored in the upcoming fiscal to ensure progress is made on the GBA+ file.
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