I. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada – An Overview

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) is an independent prosecution service whose main objective is to prosecute offences under federal jurisdiction in a manner that is free of any improper influence and that respects the public interest. It was created on December 12, 2006 with the coming into force of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, Part 3 of the Federal Accountability Act.


The mandate of the PPSC is set out in the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. The Act empowers the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to:

When carrying out these statutory responsibilities, the DPP is the Deputy Attorney General of Canada. The Director of Public Prosecutions Act empowers the DPP to act independently in respect of federal prosecutions.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Act also empowers the DPP to:

With the exception of Canada Elections Act matters, the Attorney General of Canada can issue a directive to the DPP in respect of a prosecution or assume conduct of a prosecution, but must do so in writing and a notice must be published in the Canada Gazette. As part of the DPP’s accountability to the Attorney General, and to assist the Attorney General in deciding whether to give direction or assume conduct, the DPP must inform the Attorney General of any prosecution or planned intervention that may raise important questions of general interest.

Most of the responsibilities of the DPP are carried out by federal prosecutors employed by the PPSC or private-sector agents retained by the DPP. Whether staff counsel or private-sector agents, all federal prosecutors work pursuant to delegations issued by the DPP under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act.

Mission and Values

In 2009–2010, the PPSC adopted a mission and values statement to articulate the essential principles that underlie the organization and to provide a basis for future strategic planning.


The mission of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada is to serve the public by:


We in the Public Prosecution Service of Canada are guided by our key values in carrying out our mandate:

Assignments and Directives

In 2009–2010, no assignments or directives were issued by the Attorney General of Canada to the DPP.

On September 24, 2009, the PPSC completed its response to an assignment issued in 2007 to develop best practices for prosecuting fraud involving governments. The proposed best practices are available on the PPSC’s website.

Roles and Responsibilities

The PPSC prosecutes offences that fall within federal jurisdiction. The PPSC also provides prosecution-related advice to law enforcement agencies across Canada.

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 investigates the alleged offences. In Quebec and New Brunswick, the PPSC prosecutes only drug offences investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Regional Profile:


In Alberta, the PPSC operates with a Regional Office in Edmonton and a local office in Calgary.

The criminal prosecution work focuses principally on drugs, proceeds of crime and related organized crime. Counsel assigned to the Drug and Organized Crime and Integrated Proceeds of Crime groups work closely with investigative agencies such as municipal police, the RCMP and specialized organized crime units including both the Edmonton and Calgary Gang Units and the Integrated Response to Organized Crime joint forces unit.

Significant work is also carried out by the economic crime and regulatory prosecutions groups.

Counsel from the offices regularly support the PPSC’s Northern offices as members of the “Flying Squad”, primarily in the Northwest Territories.

In all provinces and territories, the PPSC prosecutes violations of federal statutes such as the Income Tax Act, the Fisheries Act, the Excise Act, the Customs Act, the Canada Elections Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and the Competition Act, as well as conspiracies and attempts to violate these statutes. In total, over 250 federal statutes contain offences that fall under the PPSC’s jurisdiction to prosecute. However, the PPSC regularly provides prosecution services under approximately 60 of those statutes.

In the three territories, the PPSC is responsible for prosecuting all Criminal Code offences. In the provinces, the PPSC has jurisdiction to prosecute a limited number of Criminal Code offences, including those related to terrorism, criminal organizations, money laundering, proceeds of crime and fraud. Under arrangements with the provinces, the PPSC may also prosecute Criminal Code offences that are otherwise within provincial jurisdiction when the accused also faces charges within federal jurisdiction.

Regional Profile:


The Atlantic Regional Office is based in Halifax, with local offices in Moncton and St. John’s. PPSC prosecutors are responsible for prosecuting a broad range of offences under federal jurisdiction, ranging from fisheries-related regulatory cases to cases involving drugs and organized crime.

PPSC counsel work closely with local law enforcement and federal investigative agencies in the execution of their mandates. The region’s resources and geography also contribute to the unique mix of offences prosecuted by these offices.

The PPSC is not an investigative agency. It conducts a prosecution when a charge of violating federal law has been laid by the police or other law enforcement agency, following an investigation. The independence of law enforcement agencies from the prosecution function is well established in Canada and is considered an important aspect of the administration of justice. Cooperation between investigators and prosecutors, however, is recognized as essential, particularly in the context of large and complex cases. As a result, the PPSC often provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement officials at the investigative stage and at times works closely with them.

In addition to providing advice and conducting prosecutions, the PPSC performs a number of other key roles in the criminal justice system, including:

Role of the Prosecutor

Prosecutors play a key role in the Canadian criminal justice system. Much is expected of them both by the courts and the public. They must see that all cases deserving of prosecution are brought to trial and prosecuted with competence, diligence and fairness. Prosecutors must be of absolute integrity, above all suspicion of favouritism and must exercise the considerable discretion bestowed on them fairly, in good faith, and without any consideration of the political implications of their decisions. 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

As of March 31, 2010, the PPSC had 920 employees across Canada—the majority of whom were prosecutors. In addition to staff prosecutors, the PPSC retained the service of some 226 private-sector law firms, or approximately 590 individually appointed counsel, as agents.

PPSC Headquarters is located in Ottawa, and the organization maintains a network of offices across Canada. Some PPSC staff prosecutors are also co-located with the Competition Bureau in the National Capital Region and with integrated enforcement teams across Canada.

Organizational Structure

Organizational Structure

Regional Offices

The PPSC maintains regional offices in Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, Iqaluit, Yellowknife, and Whitehorse, each headed by a Chief Federal Prosecutor. As well, local offices throughout the country expand the PPSC’s national presence.


Department of Justice Canada

While the PPSC is an independent organization, it maintains a close and cooperative relationship with the Department of Justice Canada. PPSC prosecutors consult Justice counsel in areas such as human rights law, constitutional law, Aboriginal law and public law. Such consultations do not impinge on the independence of PPSC prosecutors.

The PPSC continues to rely on the Department of Justice for a number of transactional administrative services. A memorandum of understanding governs the provision of these services.

In Canada’s Northern territories, the PPSC provides transactional administrative services to the Department of Justice. The organizations are currently developing an agreement to formalize this arrangement.

Investigative Agencies

An important aspect of the PPSC’s mandate is the provision of advice to law enforcement agencies during their investigations. 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. This close collaboration is achieved while maintaining the independence and separation of roles between prosecutors and police and investigative agencies.

PPSC counsel provide advice on such issues as the disclosure of evidence required by law, and assist in obtaining key evidence- gathering orders, such as wiretap authorizations and orders to produce evidence.


The federal and provincial governments share jurisdiction over criminal prosecutions. This makes cooperation and coordination essential to the effective enforcement of the law. In order to ensure effective enforcement, the PPSC and provincial prosecution services have arrangements that allow the prosecution service prosecuting an offence within its jurisdiction to also prosecute related “minor” offences that would normally fall under the jurisdiction of another prosecution service. Thus, the PPSC may prosecute a Criminal Code offence that is within provincial jurisdiction with the consent and on behalf of a provincial attorney general where it is related to a federal charge. Similarly, provincial prosecution services may prosecute federal offences when they come about in relation to a primary offence under the Criminal Code. The delegation relates only to the conduct of the prosecution. The prosecution service delegating the prosecution retains ultimate control over the prosecution.

Regional Profile:

British Columbia

The British Columbia Regional Office is based in Vancouver.

A substantial amount of the work focuses on the prosecution of drug offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. PPSC counsel work closely with investigative agencies such as municipal police, the RCMP, and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit to prosecute the increasing prevalence of organized crime activity.

The office also has a “Flying Squad” that provides prosecution services to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) and several remote coastal communities.

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