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II: Performance by Strategic Outcome and Results

The Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court has a single strategic outcome - to provide the best possible decision-making environment for the Supreme Court of Canada. This single strategic outcome is supported by one Program Activity - Process hearings and decisions, defined as the provision of services the Court must have to render its decisions as the Court of last resort. The principal responsibilities of the Office of the Registrar are to provide a full range of administrative and support services to the Judges and to manage cases coming to the Court.

The planned results in support of this are:

  • To process hearings and decisions promptly;
  • To ensure the independence of the Court as an institution within the framework of sound public administration;
  • To improve access to the Court and its services; and
  • To provide the information base that the Court needs to fulfill its mandate.

The performance management framework of the Office of the Registrar also includes performance indicators related to a Productive Workforce and Sound Management. The following table identifies the performance indicators applicable to each expected result.

Expected result Performance indicator

Process cases promptly

• Feedback regarding quality of service
• Quality of technology
• Elapsed time for processing cases
• Quality of library services

Independence of the court

• Perception of institutional independence
• Identification of potential conflict of interest

Access to Court services

• Time to respond to requests for information
• Effectiveness of rules
• Quality of protocol services
• Quality of electronic access to Court services and information
• System availability
• Provision of media access
• Physical security

Access to information

• Access to case information
• Quality of storage, retention and preservation of Court information
• Library collection

Productive workforce

• Motivated and committed workforce
• Skilled workforce

Sound management

• Conformity to Management Accountability Framework (MAF)

The remainder of this section reports on the Office of the Registrar’s performance against each indicator.

A. Expected Result: Process cases without delay

Since the fundamental and on-going priority of the Supreme Court is to hear cases and render decisions, it follows that the ultimate and fundamental priority of the Office of the Registrar is to process cases without delay. Key performance indicators are feedback regarding quality of service, elapsed time for processing cases, the quality of technology in place, and the quality of library services.

• Feedback regarding quality of service. Stakeholder satisfaction is monitored on a qualitative basis through feedback from the Judges and the legal profession. During 2006/07, this was supplemented by a formal survey of clients’ (counsel, agents and self-represented litigants) satisfaction with various Registry Branch services, including assessment of the scope, quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the services and information provided.

Feedback from the Judges. The Registrar regularly confers with the Judges to assess their level of satisfaction regarding the quality and timeliness of professional and administration services provided to them by Court staff. Feedback has generally been very positive. The Judges are anxious for the Court Modernization project to be completed.

Feedback from legal community. The Registrar regularly meets with external legal agents to obtain feedback on service delivery. For example, feedback is obtained through the Canadian Bar Association/Supreme Court of Canada (CBA/SCC) Liaison Committee, as well as committees such as the Court Ottawa Agents Practice and Procedures Committee (COAPP) and other informal communications with the legal community. The overall level of satisfaction is high. Key ongoing requirements from counsel are the need for responsive and efficient service, and the demand for electronic access to information.

Feedback from clients. A survey of Registry Branch clients was conducted between February 1st and 23rd 2007. The full list of 299 clients appearing before the Supreme Court in 2006 was contacted to complete the survey, with 178 (or 60%) responding. Clients were asked to provide feedback on the quality of Registry Branch services, hours of operation, communication channels, Registry Branch staff, and the SCC website. Their feedback was very positive. Three out of four respondents stated they were “very satisfied” with the service they received, while virtually all respondents (99%) were “satisfied” or “very satisfied”. Hours of operation were deemed acceptable, while a small percentage would prefer longer service hours. Most clients use the phone or online communication channels, but satisfaction is higher among those who use in-person, fax or mail. Registry Branch staff were deemed to be courteous, accessible, knowledgeable and efficient, and to provide high quality information. Virtually all respondents were “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with the calibre of Registry staff. The Court website was viewed positively, although not as strongly as other service areas. Areas for improvement were found to be the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada, which could be more complete and clear, as could the guidelines for preparing the electronic copy of the factum on appeal. Evidence also indicated a requirement to take steps to ensure the most commonly used communication channels, particularly the online channel, provide the same level of service as the more traditional, yet less complex, channels.

In 2006-07, the Library participated in the LibQual+ Canadian Consortium benchmarking survey, as part of four Canadian government libraries involved in this major service quality study of over 200 academic and research libraries. The LibQual+ survey evolved from a conceptual model based on the SERVQUAL instrument, a popular tool for assessing service quality in the private sector. Only internal clients were surveyed. Results will be evaluated in 2007-08 and used to develop innovative ways to improve library service.

The Office of the Registrar refined a number of business processes during 2006-2007, for example:

  • The latest revision to the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada was drafted and adopted, and training materials were provided for the Judges, court staff and outside counsel. The changes have been implemented without any difficulties.
  • A comprehensive procedures manual for all Registry operations was finalized.
  • A comprehensive guide for conducting media lock ups on the release of selected Court decisions was written and adopted.
  • Court case and administrative records management were consolidated under a single manager.
  • The workflow for the production of the Bulletin of Proceedings, in its new bilingual format, was improved.
  • A Program Management Office was created to coordinate activities of four major projects : Courtroom AV/IT, EDRMS, E-Filing and Word Processing software upgrade.
  • A communications services function was created, consolidating communications activities and accountabilities from various branches and laying the ground work for a communications centre of expertise.
  • Implementation of open URL software and federated searching to enable searching across the hybrid print and electronic legal collections in the Library.
  • Redesign of the Library intranet to conform to common look and feel standards.
  • Implementation of library self-circulation kiosks and automation of interlibrary loan services to external libraries were integrated with the Library Management System (LMS).

Elapsed time for processing cases

The Office of the Registrar maintains monthly statistics on the Court’s caseload and backlog, and produces a public annual statistical report. Detailed information on the case load is also available on the Court’s Internet site ( The number of leave applications that are waiting and ready to be submitted has been maintained at a stable level of under 70 cases. Over 90% of leave applications were decided within six months of filing.

Average time lapses over time for processing cases in 2006 are shown in the table below. The average time between filing an application for leave and the decision decreased slightly in 2006. The average time between the date leave is granted and the hearing decreased more significantly. The average time between the hearing and the release of the judgment increased in 2006, representing the second consecutive year this has increased.

Average Time Lapses
(in months)
Between filing of application for leave and decision on application for leave
Between date leave granted (or date notice of appeal as of right filed) and hearing
Between hearing and judgment

Average Time Lapses
(in months)
Between filing of application for leave and decision on application for leave
Between date leave granted (or date notice of appeal as of right filed) and hearing
Between hearing and judgment


Quality of technology

Information technology continued to be a major focus during 2006-2007. Existing technology groupings include standard office/desktop tools, courtroom technology (e.g., Audio Visual equipment), in-house applications such as the Case Management System, off-the-shelf commercial applications (e.g., Human Resource Information System (HRIS), Free Balance, Library Management System), security, web applications and support hardware and infrastructure. Major projects are underway to introduce an enterprise-wide EDRMS, to support electronic filing, to upgrade the Court’s word processing software, to completely revamp the Courtroom’s audio visual systems and to introduce information technology to the courtroom, in addition to regular ongoing updates and upgrades to IT infrastructure and desk top applications.

Quality of library services

In addition to serving the Supreme Court, the Library provides services to lawyers appearing before the Court, to the Federal Courts (Federal Court of Appeal, Federal Court, Tax Court of Canada), to members of the Bar and, by special permission, to others in the legal field. Through a variety of resource sharing agreements with Law Society and Courthouse Libraries and through inter-library loan networks, the Canadian public is able to benefit from the historical and current legal collections in common and civil law. In 2006-2007, the second phase in the renewal of the Library Management System was made a priority, to ensure that the Court’s library users would have the required functionality to effectively access the extensive hybrid, print and electronic collections. Use of the interlibrary loan system was heavily promoted to law libraries across the country. Seamless access to electronic and print journals was made possible through the introduction of open URL technology, while a federated search engine enables Library users to search across multiple data bases and the internet.

B. Expected Result: Independence of the Court

At the apex of the judiciary, the Court decides cases of public importance that affect Canadian citizens and governments. In this context, the Office of the Registrar must ensure that the institutional independence of the Court is clearly safeguarded within the framework of sound public administration.

Perception of institutional independence

Appropriate arms-length relationships must be maintained with Parliament, the Department of Justice and the Central Agencies. The Registrar regularly confers with the Judges to assess their level of comfort that the Supreme Court is maintaining its institutional independence. The Office of the Registrar also receives informal feedback from ongoing relationships with international, federal and provincial jurisdictions, and takes action where appropriate.

The Court indirectly supports its institutional independence by its active participation in the international community of judges and jurists, and by acting as a focal point for foreign visitors interested in the administration of justice in Canada. The Court's jurisprudence is regularly considered by courts in other countries. The Court receives and organizes visits for many delegations from the four horizons, for sharing of information on modern court management processes (59 official visits were held in 2006). Office of the Registrar staff and the Judges have also been participating actively in international associations by providing a selection of decisions from the Court's database for distribution to their members and attending their meetings to discuss issues of common interest.

Identification of potential conflict of interest

The Office of the Registrar has put in place controls to identify and track potential conflicts of interest on the part of the Judges, the Registrar and the Deputy Registrar. The Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada have been amended to require litigants to advise the Court of any perceived potential conflict of interest when filing documents. An automated tracking system ensures that Judges are not placed in a situation of perceived conflict of interest.

C. Expected Result: Access to Court services

The Office of the Registrar must ensure that the Court is accessible and that it provides services and information to litigants and counsel in a timely manner. The survey on Registry Branch services (summarized in Section A., above) provided useful feedback on how clients view the accessibility of Court information.

Time to respond to requests for information

In large part requests for information were answered within established service standards. Feedback from stakeholders has been positive. There were few complaints. Improvements have also been made to the web site to facilitate access to information on a self-serve basis. Enhancements made during 2006-2007 include media web portals, an educational web portal and video, information management business rules for Judges’ papers and a reworked University of Montreal web site for Court decisions (Lexum).

General enquiries and requests for information by the public are increasing, resulting from a better-informed and demanding public and from the captivating issues debated in Court cases. The number of phone calls, e-mails and letters from the general public are more demanding. In 2006, the Court Records staff responded to 2,719 requests from internal and external clients for information on Court related files and documents, and 7,125 files or parts thereof were retrieved for these clients. Through improved statistical reports, Court Records is now able to monitor service standards. Over 95% of requests were dealt with within the established service standard of 48 hours. Phone calls at the Registry were also answered within established service levels by the receptionist. Only 6.7 % of the calls over a sample eight week period went to Registry voice mail. All calls, however, were returned within one business day. Further, Court Operations staff must maintain current and complete information regarding the progress of all cases before the Court, parties and counsel involved, hearing timetables and all decisions on motions, applications for leave to appeal and appeals on the Court's public Internet site, as well as announcing major events in a case and upcoming schedules in news releases. As well Court staff publishes in house and on the internet the Bulletin of Proceedings and the official Supreme Court Reports.
As is found to be the trend in most courts across the country, there are an increasing number of self represented litigants coming to the Court, as is shown in the table below. These litigants need more assistance than those who have counsel, putting extra demands on staff. In 2006, 299 letters were sent to self represented litigants, 50 of them included information kits to assist them in putting together their application for leave to appeal.


Leave Applications filed by all litigants

Leave Applications filed by self represented litigants

% filed by self represented litigants

































Effectiveness of rules

Ongoing revisions are made to the Rules of Practice of the Supreme Court of Canada. These are drafted after consultation with outside lawyers on the Court Ottawa Agents Practice and Procedures Committee (COAPP) and the Canadian Bar Association/Supreme Court of Canada (CBA/SCC) Liaison Committee. A major overhaul of the rules was done in 2002. Since then, suggestions for minor adjustments have been collected and revisions proposed; these came into force in October 2006. Overall, Court rules are effective and up to date. Feedback from the COAPP and CBA/SCC Liaison Committee is generally positive. Recommendations for improvement from the Registry survey will be addressed next year.

Quality of protocol services

Protocol services include organizing special events of the Court (including receptions, dinners, conferences, lectures, and unveilings), receiving dignitaries and visitors officially invited by the Court (national and international), and providing assistance to Judges when travelling internationally on behalf of the Court. Overall, the feedback regarding the protocol services has been positive. Events are perceived to be successful. No major concerns have been identified, and service improvements are made on an ongoing basis.

Quality of electronic access to Court Services and Information

The Supreme Court web site continued to be the object of enhancements that aimed at improving the timely availability of information about cases and hearings. Bilingual summaries are prepared for each leave application and posted on the Court’s website, which is updated on a daily basis, and therefore has current case information. Development of a web portal for self represented litigants commenced in 2006/07 to be implemented in 2007/08. Hard copy instruction packages were also updated. The Office of the Registrar continues to be fully committed to its phased approach to e-filing, with the intention of having all appeal documents e-filed for all Fall 2008 cases.

Systems Availability

A key concern is the dependability of audio-visual systems in the courtroom. Short term fixes were implemented in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 pending the longer term improvements that will result with the realization of the Courtroom Audio Visual / Information Management / Technology project. As well, an emergency back-up system to provide the basic capability to continue a hearing in the event of audio visual system failure was acquired.

Provision of media access

The lock up system for important judgment releases is now well-entrenched and suggestions for improvements in media relations are received via the Court’s media committee. A main focus of the Courtroom AV modernization project is the enhancement of the broadcast quality for the media.


Activities undertaken to maintain and improve security levels included:

Implementation of recommendations resulting from 2004-2005 Security Audit. Security policies and procedures for the Office of the Registrar were developed or enhanced as appropriate and will be further refined in the next fiscal year. The update to the Office of the Registrar’s business continuity framework and plan was completed and tested in 2006-2007, and will be kept current through ongoing maintenance and regular testing, and adapted as required in accordance with the government’s best practices and the Continuity of Constitutional Government orientation.

Security awareness. A security awareness program delivery agenda was formulated. Furthermore, the Security Guide for the Judges of the Supreme Court of Canada was updated and distributed in conjunction with one-on-one security briefings conducted with each judge.

D. Expected Result: Access to information

The Office of the Registrar undertook a number of initiatives to develop and implement a strategy for managing and accessing information, including the Intranet/Internet, systems and repositories for communicating information, storage and handling of archival information, and preservation of electronic information (e.g., VHS, DVD, microfiche). Implementation also includes the information infrastructure (e.g., governance, documentation, and training). These improvements will reduce duplication of information, improve access to information, ensure better presentation of information and support knowledge sharing and transfer.

Access to case information

The Office of the Registrar must ensure ease of public access to information such as Court decisions, as well as ease of access by Judges and employees to historical case information and other legal documents. Case information is available in electronic format, although there are still limits to accessing documents on file. Enhancements to the Court's Case Management System are ongoing as users rely heavily on this application. The Office of the Registrar currently provides access to the Case Management System logic through the website, and is exploring the possibility of expanding this access to additional information and documents, including the electronic factum. Online reports are being created to satisfy the growing demand from counsel for information. A draft policy for access to court records, including access to factums, on the Court’s website was developed in 2006-2007; following comments, it was approved in May 2007, and will be implemented during 2007-2008.

Quality of storage, retention and preservation of Court information

The Office of the Registrar has a well established records management function for legal files. An audit of the information management function was undertaken in 2004-2005, addressing both legal and administrative records. The audit made a number of recommendations to be implemented over a four year period intended to make improvements in governance structures, control mechanisms, policies and practices, risk management and information for decision-making. Implementation of many of the recommendations has commenced, including extensive preparations for implementation of an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) in 2007-08. Work done included definition of requirements, selection of system, training strategy and application architecture.

In preparation for the implementation of the EDRMS, a file classification plan, metadata profile and retention schedule were developed. The development process for these tools included extensive user consultations, thereby encouraging buy in by staff to information management initiatives.

Library holdings

With approximately 350,000 volumes, the Library of the Supreme Court provides the research base for the Court. The Library's extensive collection comprises statutes, law reports, periodicals and treatises from major common and civil law jurisdictions, including Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, France and Belgium. Its print and microform holdings are supplemented by access to a vast range of electronic legal resources and databases. It is also enriched by a valuable collection of rare books printed in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries pertaining to the common law of England and the civil law of France.

In 2006-2007 the Library completely redesigned its intranet site to fully exploit the capabilities of the upgraded Library Management System and the peripheral softwares implemented over the course of the year, including the ability of users to effectively access the best available copy of a journal, in either print or electronic formats. Additionally hundreds of bibliographic records were enhanced with electronic tables of contents, and linked to full text.

E. Expected Result: Productive workforce

The key indicators are a motivated, committed and skilled workforce.

Motivated and committed workforce

The most recent Public Service Employee Survey indicated a continued high level of commitment to the organization. Responses were positive across all areas of the survey. Of particular note are responses indicating that 99% of employees responding are strongly committed to making their organization successful and agree that their organization is a good place to work, and that 97% of respondents are proud of their work units. However, while the overall responses are positive, the Office of the Registrar recognized areas for improvement, and identified three priorities for action: learning and career development, human resource training for employees and managers, and communications between employees and supervisors and from senior management.

Skilled workforce

As is the case with many small agencies, the Office of the Registrar has Difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff. Historically, recruitment has been difficult for specialty positions, namely among librarians and jurilinguists. Retention is an issue among support organizations, as the Office of the Registrar is not able to offer many opportunities for career advancement, and employees leave to obtain promotional opportunities. The Court Modernization program adds to this difficulty with the creation of new responsibilities and new positions. These challenges have been identified and reflected in a staffing plan, and have been further highlighted in the Office of the Registrar’s human resource plan.

F. Expected Result: Sound management

The Office of the Registrar has continued to improve its management practices, and carries out a yearly assessment of its practices against the government-wide Management Accountability Framework.

Conformity to the Management Accountability Framework (MAF)

The Office of the Registrar completed a management capacity assessment in 2002, and an action plan for improved management practices in 2003. The management initiatives have been integrated into the organization’s business plans. Key areas where steps have been taken during 2006-07 to improve management practices include:

Risk management. The Office of the Registrar updates its corporate risk profile on a yearly basis as part of its strategic planning. In the way ahead, the Office of the Registrar wants to be more specific about actions that will be put in place to address high priority risks (through more detailed mitigation plans), provide managers training in risk management, and finalize the development of its business resumption and business continuity plans.

Management, Resources and Results Structure (MRRS). The Office of the Registrar completed Step One of the MRRS Roadmap by updating the Program Activity Architecture to better reflect the programs and activities carried out. This new PAA will form the basis for reporting in 2008/09. The Office of the Registrar has a performance measurement framework in place, consisting of 19 indicators, which are a combination of qualitative and quantitative factors. Performance is monitored twice a year, first at the annual fall strategic planning retreat, and once at year end. Performance information is drawn from a number of sources, a key data source being the Case Management System. Performance is monitored against a five level performance scale relative to “target” performance, and is accompanied by an overall evaluation of strengths and weaknesses. The results of the monitoring feed into the identification of priorities and projects. In the way ahead, the Office of the Registrar hopes to assess the need for more detailed scorecards for each performance indicator.

Internal audit. Results of audits have been very useful in improving services and tightening controls, and internal audit is seen as a strong management tool. An effective follow-up process is in place for audits. During 2006-07, an internal audit of the Office of the Registrar’s contracting and procurement activities was undertaken. The auditors found that management has taken positive action over the period examined to address known risk areas and to strengthen controls with respect to contracting, the level of knowledge of contracting requirements across the Office of the Registrar has been enhanced and many of the steps in the procurement process were standardized. Roles and responsibilities for contracting were found to be well defined and understood, and management receives regular, accurate and reliable information on contracting activities. The auditors also pointed out a number of areas for improvement, and made recommendations to the Office of the Registrar’s procedures in order that:

  • risks associated with the Court’s procurement and contracting activities are regularly assessed;
  • access is facilitated and competition encouraged in line with government procurement and contracting policy;
  • procedures are further standardized and formalized, and processes streamlined;
  • a better audit trail of the actions taken and the approvals obtained is provided;
  • the knowledge of federal government contracting requirements remains current at the Court through periodic professional development and frequent consultation/liaison with Public Works and Government Services Canada;
  • contracting authorities are delegated only to those individuals with in-depth knowledge of applicable government contracting rules and regulations; and
  • the results of audits are presented to the Executive Committee and subsequently to Management Committee.

Key areas where additional effort is required to fully conform with the MAF include the following:

Effective planning structure. The Office of the Registrar is taking a multi-phased approach to fully integrating asset management and human resources planning with its already established business planning process. Human resources considerations were a formal part of the 2006-07 planning process, and the first draft Integrated HR Plan was developed. Further improvements to the process will be made for the next planning cycle to fully integrate HR and business planning as well as asset management elements. A more rigorous approach for reporting progress against plans will also be instituted.

Materiel Management. The Office of the Registrar does not have a formalized process/system for asset/materiel management. The introduction of an integrated planning process (above) will be the catalyst for improvement in this area.