1 The Public Prosecution Service of Canada – An Overview
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) is an independent and accountable prosecuting authority whose main objective is to prosecute cases under federal jurisdiction in a manner that is free from any improper influence.
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:
- initiate and conduct federal prosecutions;
- intervene in proceedings that raise a question of public interest that may affect the conduct of prosecutions or related investigations;
- issue guidelines to federal prosecutors;
- advise law enforcement agencies or investigative bodies on general matters relating to prosecutions and on particular investigations that may lead to prosecutions;
- communicate with the media and the public on all matters that involve the initiation and conduct of prosecutions;
- exercise the authority of the Attorney General of Canada in respect of private prosecutions; and
- exercise any other power or carry out any other duty or function assigned by the Attorney General of Canada that is compatible with the office of the Director.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Act also empowers the DPP to:
- initiate and conduct prosecutions under the Canada Elections Act; and
- act, when requested by the Attorney General of Canada, in matters under the Extradition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act.
In addition to being the Deputy Attorney General of Canada, the DPP also has the rank and status of a deputy head of a department, and in this capacity is responsible for the management of the PPSC as a distinct governmental organization.
With the exception of Canada Elections Act matters, the Attorney General of Canada can issue a directive to the DPP about a prosecution or even assume conduct of a prosecution, but must do so in writing and a notice must be published in the Canada Gazette. In turn, the DPP must inform the Attorney General of any prosecution or planned intervention that may raise important questions of general interest. Similarly, the Attorney General can assign additional responsibilities to the DPP, provided the assignment is in writing and published in the Canada Gazette.
The DPP does not report to the Attorney General on prosecutions under the Canada Elections Act; such matters are therefore not included in this report.
Mission and Values
The PPSC’s mission and values statement articulates the essential principles that guide the organization.
The mission of the PPSC is to serve the public by:
- prosecuting cases with diligence, in a manner that is fair, impartial, and objective;
- seeking to protect the rights of individuals and to uphold the rule of law; and
- working within the criminal justice system to help make Canada a safe and just society.
In carrying out its mandate, the PPSC is guided by key values:
- Respect forms the basis of relationships with fellow employees and with the public.
- Integrity motivates employees to apply the highest ethical and professional standards.
- Excellence inspires employees in all aspects of their work.
- Leadership characterizes the organization’s efforts to improve the quality of criminal justice throughout Canada.
Assignments and Directives
In 2011-2012, no assignments or directives were issued by the Attorney General of Canada to the DPP, nor did the Attorney General assume conduct of any prosecutions.
Roles and Responsibilities
The PPSC prosecutes charges of violating federal law laid following an investigation by a law enforcement agency. The PPSC is not an investigative agency and does not conduct investigations. The separation of law enforcement agencies from the prosecution function is a well-established principle of the Canadian criminal justice system. However, cooperation between investigators and prosecutors is 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.
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).
In all provinces and territories, the PPSC prosecutes charges under federal statutes such as the Income Tax Act, the Fisheries Act, the Excise Act, the Customs Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Canada Shipping 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, and the PPSC regularly provides prosecution services under approximately 60 of those statutes.
The PPSC is responsible for prosecuting all Criminal Code offences in the territories. 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.
Role of the Prosecutor
Prosecutors play a key role in the Canadian criminal justice system. This role is quasi-judicial in nature, and has been described by the Supreme Court of Canada as a “Minister of Justice” responsibility, which imposes on prosecutors the duty to be objective, independent, and dispassionate. They must see that all cases deserving of prosecution are brought to trial and prosecuted with competence, diligence, and fairness. Prosecutors must be of integrity, above all suspicion, 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, 2012, the PPSC had 988 employees across Canada, the largest group of whom were prosecutors. In addition to staff prosecutors, the PPSC retained the services of some 210 private-sector law firms, or 492 individually-appointed lawyers, as standing agents.
PPSC Headquarters is located in Ottawa, and the organization maintains a network of regional and local 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.
Department of Justice Canada
The PPSC maintains a close and cooperative working 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.
The PPSC relies on the Department of Justice for a number of internal transactional administrative services. In Canada’s Northern territories, the PPSC provides such services to the Department of Justice. Memoranda of Understanding have been developed to govern the corporate and legal services provided by the Department of Justice and the PPSC to each other.
The PPSC provides advice to law enforcement agencies during their investigations in order to ensure that the investigations are handled in such a way as to permit a prosecution on the merits of the case. The early and continual involvement of prosecutors during major investigations and in the implementation of national enforcement programs allows the police and other investigative agencies to benefit from legal advice as they decide how best to enforce the law.
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.
Provinces and Territories
The federal and provincial governments share jurisdiction over prosecutions. This shared jurisdiction means cooperation and coordination are essential to the effective enforcement of the law. The PPSC and provincial prosecution services have standing and ad hoc 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 the other prosecution service. For example, 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 more serious federal charge. Similarly, provincial prosecution services may prosecute federal offences when they come about in relation to a more serious offence under the Criminal Code. The delegation relates only to the conduct of the prosecution. The jurisdiction delegating the conduct of the prosecution retains ultimate control over the prosecution and over major decisions regarding the case.
In the territories, all Criminal Code prosecutions are conducted by the PPSC. The PPSC also has arrangements with the territories to conduct certain territorial prosecutions.
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