I. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada - An Overview

The PPSC was created on December 12, 2006 with the coming in force of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, Part 3 of the Federal Accountability Act. The PPSC replaces the former Federal Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice Canada.


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.

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.

The PPSC is not an investigative agency. It prosecutes when a charge of violating federal law has been laid following an investigation by a law enforcement agency. The PPSC provides legal advice and assistance to investigators at the investigative stage and works closely with them, on complex cases.

The responsibilities of the PPSC vary by province and territory.

In all provinces and territories, except Quebec and New Brunswick, the PPSC is responsible for prosecuting all drug offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, regardless of which police agency investigated the alleged offences. In Quebec and New Brunswick, the only drug offences prosecuted by the PPSC are those investigated by the RCMP.

In all provinces and territories, the PPSC prosecutes violations of federal statutes such as the Fisheries Act, the Income Tax Act, the Excise Act, the Customs Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and the Canada Shipping Act, as well as conspiracies and attempts to violate these statutes. The PPSC also prosecutes Criminal Code offences, including those related to terrorism as well as criminal organizations, money laundering and proceeds of crime offences when they arise from violations of other federal statutes. Under arrangements with the provinces, the PPSC may also prosecute Criminal Code offences related to drug charges. In the three territories, the PPSC is also responsible for prosecuting all Criminal Code offences.

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

Powers, Duties and Functions of the Director

The core powers, duties and functions of the Director of Public Prosecutions are set out in Section 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. The Director of Public Prosecutions Act empowers the Director to make final and binding decisions unless directed otherwise by the Attorney General of Canada. Such direction must be given in writing and published in the Canada Gazette.

The Director must inform the Attorney General of Canada of any prosecution or planned intervention that may raise important questions of general interest, allowing the Attorney General of Canada the opportunity to provide direction in, intervene in, or assume conduct of the case.

PPSC prosecutors are guided in their work by the policies and practices in the Federal Prosecution Service Deskbook, and by guidelines issued by the Director. In 2007, the Attorney General of Canada issued a directive instructing PPSC prosecutors to continue applying the Deskbook, subject to any guidelines issued by the Director.

Role of the Prosecutor

Canadian courts expect a great deal from prosecutors, who are subject to ethical, procedural, and constitutional obligations. 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 an accused.

About the Organization

The PPSC operates from 11 regional offices and five sub-offices across Canada. Its headquarters are located in Ottawa. Some PPSC staff prosecutors are co-located with the Competition Bureau and with integrated enforcement teams across Canada. Of the PPSC’s approximately 830 employees, the majority are prosecutors. They work with paralegals, administrators, legal assistants and corporate services staff.

Current Organizational Structure

Current Organizational Structure

PPSC Partners

Department of Justice Canada

The PPSC continues to work closely and cooperatively with the Department of Justice Canada. Federal prosecutors benefit from consultations with Justice counsel in areas such as human rights law, constitutional law, Aboriginal law and criminal law policy. Both the PPSC and the Department provide legal advice to investigative agencies.

From an administrative perspective, the PPSC continues to rely on the Department for certain transactional corporate services.

Investigative Agencies

The PPSC works with several investigative agencies, including the RCMP and other police forces. It also works with the enforcement arms of federal departments and agencies, including the Competition Bureau, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canada Border Services Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada, and Health Canada.

Investigations that target sophisticated organizations or that use techniques that have not received definitive judicial consideration usually require ongoing advice from prosecutors. The complexity of the law and the high costs of multi-year investigations make it increasingly important for police to know as early as possible the impact of their decisions on potential prosecutions. In an era where considerable time in a trial can be spent analyzing investigative decisions, the PPSC provides ongoing legal advice before a charge is laid.

As well, certain key evidence gathering orders require — or may benefit from — the involvement of PPSC counsel. This includes wiretap applications and orders to produce potential evidence. In this capacity, counsel ensure that the court has what it needs in order to decide whether the police should be empowered to do what they are asking.

The early and ongoing involvement of prosecutors both during major investigations and in the implementation of national enforcement programs helps ensure that the police and other investigative agencies benefit from legal advice to decide how best to enforce the law.


Jurisdiction over prosecutions is shared between the federal and provincial governments. From this shared responsibility, the need arises for cooperation and coordination in the enforcement of criminal law. For example, the PPSC may prosecute Criminal Code offences with the consent and on behalf of a provincial attorney general where it is more efficient and cost-effective to do so. This generally occurs where the Criminal Code offences are related to some federal charge, such as firearms offences related to a drug charge.

Similarly, a provincial prosecution service may prosecute a drug charge where the major offence is found in the Criminal Code. Such arrangements are called “major-minor” agreements, meaning that the prosecution service responsible for prosecuting the “major” charge will prosecute the “minor” one as well. On February 10, 2007, the Director was assigned the power to conduct prosecutions that the Attorney General of Canada is authorized to undertake under such agreements.

Major cases that involve serious Criminal Code and other federal offences are also increasingly being prosecuted by joint prosecution teams, particularly in organized crime files.

Date modified: