Section 1: About the Public Prosecution Service of Canada

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) is a federal government organization, created on December 12, 2006, when Part 3 of the Federal Accountability Act received Royal Assent, bringing the Director of Public Prosecutions Act into force.

The PPSC fulfills the responsibilities of the Attorney General of Canada in the discharge of his criminal law mandate by prosecuting criminal offences under federal jurisdiction and by contributing to strengthening the criminal justice system.

In this regard, the PPSC assumes the role played within the Department of Justice Canada by the former Federal Prosecution Service (FPS), and takes on additional responsibilities for prosecuting new fraud offences under the Financial Administration Act as well as offences under the Canada Elections Act. Unlike the FPS, which was part of the Department of Justice, the PPSC is an independent organization, reporting to Parliament through the Attorney General of Canada.


The creation of the PPSC reflects the decision to make transparent the principle of prosecutorial independence, free from any improper influence.

The mandate of the PPSC is set out in the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. The Act calls on the PPSC to provide prosecutorial advice to law enforcement agencies, and to act as prosecutor in matters prosecuted by the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of the Crown.

In fulfilling its mandate, the PPSC benefits Canadians by


The PPSC reports to Parliament through the Attorney General of Canada. The Director of Public Prosecutions Act states that the Director of Public Prosecutions acts “under and on behalf of the Attorney General of Canada.” The relationship between the Attorney General and the Director is premised on the principles of respect for the independence of the prosecution function and the need to consult on important matters of general interest.

Safeguarding the Director's independence is the requirement that all instructions from the Attorney General be in writing and published in the Canada Gazette. In turn, the Director must inform the Attorney General of any prosecution or planned intervention that may raise important questions of general interest, allowing the Attorney General the opportunity to intervene in, or assume conduct of, a case. Additionally, the PPSC must provide the Attorney General with an annual report for tabling in Parliament.

Powers, Duties, and Functions of the Director

The core powers, duties, and functions of the Director of Public Prosecutions are set out in subsection 3(3) of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. These responsibilities include

When carrying out these statutory responsibilities, the Director is the Deputy Attorney General of Canada. Unless otherwise directed in writing by the Attorney General, the Director has the power to make binding and final decisions to prosecute offences under federal statutes.

Role of the Prosecutor

Canadian courts expect a great deal from prosecutors, who are subject to ethical, procedural, and constitutional obligations. Traditionally, their role has been regarded as that of “a representative of justice” rather than that of “a partisan advocate.” Their functions are imbued with a public trust. Prosecutors are expected to discharge their duties with fairness, objectivity, and integrity. Their role is not to win convictions at any cost but to put before the court all available, relevant, and admissible evidence necessary to enable the court to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. As stated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Boucher v. The Queen, [1955] S.C.R. 16, at 23-24:

It cannot be over-emphasized that the purpose of a criminal prosecution is not to obtain a conviction, it is to lay before a jury what the Crown considers to be credible evidence relevant to what is alleged to be a crime. Counsel have a duty to see that all available legal proof of the facts is presented: it should be done firmly and pressed to its legitimate strength, but it must also be done fairly. The role of prosecutor excludes any notion of winning or losing; his function is a matter of public duty than which in civil life there can be none charged with greater personal responsibility. It is to be efficiently performed with an ingrained sense of the dignity, the seriousness and the justness of judicial proceedings.

Roles and Responsibilities of the PPSC

The PPSC is responsible for prosecuting offences under more than 50 federal statutes and for providing prosecution-related legal advice to law enforcement agencies. Cases prosecuted by the PPSC include those involving drugs, organized crime, terrorism, tax law, money laundering and proceeds of crime, crimes against humanity and war crimes, Criminal Code offences in the territories, and a large number of federal regulatory offences.

The PPSC is not an investigative agency. It prosecutes when a charge has been laid pursuant to an investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) or some other investigative agency of a violation of federal law. The PPSC provides advice and assistance to investigators at the investigative stage and works closely with them, particularly in terrorism, criminal organization, proceeds of crime, money laundering, market fraud, and mega cases.

The responsibilities of the PPSC vary somewhat by province and territory:

On a national level, the PPSC performs a number of key roles to fulfill the criminal litigation responsibilities of the Attorney General, including

About The Organization

The PPSC has a headquarters office in Ottawa, 11 regional offices, 5 sub-offices, and a group of federal prosecutors who specialize in competition law prosecutions and who are co-located with the Competition Bureau. Of its approximately 670 employees, the majority are staff prosecutors supported by other professionals, such as paralegals, administrators, legal assistants, and corporate services staff.

Map of PPSC offices


The Acting Director of Public Prosecutions and the two Acting Deputy Directors are situated at PPSC headquarters in Ottawa. Headquarters functions include the coordination of criminal cases before the Supreme Court of Canada and of regulatory prosecutions; the development of prosecution policies and best practices; the provision of strategic advice, direction, and litigation support to prosecutors in the regions; the coordination of training activities including the School for Prosecutors; and the provision of corporate services, communications and legal agent support.


The regional component of the PPSC is organized as follows:

The chart below outlines the PPSC's interim organizational structure, as of March 31, 2007.

Chart of the PPSC's interim organizational structure

Legal Agents

Agents are retained in regions where the demand for prosecution services exceeds the staff resources available, or where it is more cost-effective to hire an agent, given the location and complexity of a prosecution.

The PPSC currently contracts with approximately 800 individually appointed counsel from about 250 firms. Private sector lawyers who wish to be considered for appointment as agents may contact the PPSC through our website at

Competency and integrity are the overriding considerations when selecting and appointing agents. A standardized appointment process ensures that we reach a wide range of potential candidates, that applicants are properly screened, and that the firms and practitioners being appointed are suitable.

The Agent Affairs Program, established in 1996, handles the management of agents. The objectives of this program are to ensure both the quality of legal services provided by agents and cost-effective service delivery. The Agent Affairs Unit of this program is centralized at PPSC headquarters, while each regional office has an Agent Supervision Unit to handle the day-to-day management of agents.

The relationship between the PPSC and its agents is governed by the Federal Prosecution Service Deskbook and the Terms and Conditions of Appointment of Legal Agents.


The PPSC partners with many organizations at the provincial and territorial, national, and international levels. Such partnerships are collaborative, allowing the organizations to address issues of mutual concern, and to identify and share best practices.

The Department of Justice Canada

Despite being created as an organization separate from the Department of Justice Canada, the PPSC continues to enjoy a close and cooperative working relationship with its former colleagues. Regular consultations inform the positions taken by federal prosecutors in court, and ensure that those positions are developed with the benefit of the expertise of Department of Justice counsel in areas such as human rights law, constitutional law, Aboriginal law, and criminal law policy. In addition, the PPSC collaborates with Department of Justice counsel in the provision of legal advice to investigative agencies, particularly in regulatory matters. The Department of Justice also continues to provide the PPSC with numerous transactional corporate services.

Federal Partners

Our main law enforcement partner is the RCMP, which works jointly with the PPSC to ensure border integrity and to address terrorism, organized crime and drug offences. A Memorandum of Understanding provides for joint priority setting and planning.

Other government departments and agencies also refer cases to the PPSC for prosecution. These include the Canada Revenue Agency, the Department of Justice (War Crimes Unit), Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Department of Public Safety, and the Bank of Canada.

Provincial and Territorial Partners

At the provincial level, the PPSC partners with provincial prosecution services to develop consistent policy approaches to prosecutions in many areas, including those of concurrent jurisdiction and prosecutorial training, and to share expertise and best practices in prosecutions. This is mostly achieved through the FPT Heads of Prosecutions Committee, which is co-chaired by the PPSC.

International Partners

At the international level, PPSC partners with organizations to develop common responses to serious transnational crime, particularly drug trafficking and money laundering, and to combat terrorism. To exchange best practices, the PPSC participates in international organizations such as the Canada–United States Cross-Border Crime Forum and the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), which has special consultative status with the United Nations.

Date modified: