I always take great interest in this report. The statistics presented here are crucial to the Court’s ongoing efforts to improve its efficiency, speed up its processes and measure its current performance against historical standards and new expectations. Internally the Court’s judges and staff refer to these data regularly in the course of our work. Measuring, monitoring and reviewing our performance is one way of ensuring our accountability to the Court’s users and to the Canadian public as a whole.
Measuring our performance and examining the resulting data is only the first step, however. The next is to publish this information for the benefit of the public. The Supreme Court of Canada began publishing this annual statistical report in 1990. We began posting the report on the Court’s website in 1998, in what was still the early days of the Internet. Last year, for the first time, we released some of the report’s graphs on our Twitter feed. Exposing this information to the public is, to my mind, essential. Accountability requires transparency, and publication of performance metrics is a step towards both.
I am convinced that Canadian courts must become more administratively independent from the federal and provincial governments that regularly appear before them. With greater administrative independence will come a heightened responsibility to operate our courts in accordance with the good governance principles of accountability and transparency. At first blush, those principles might seem inimical to the judicial function. Independence might seem the opposite of accountability. Transparency might seem at odds with the undoubted need for deliberative secrecy. But these tensions are only superficial. In truth, judicial independence and judicial accountability are two sides of the same coin; the one defines the limits of the otherFootnote 1. And while transparency must have certain limits in the judicial context (as in others), courts must not misuse judicial independence as a shield against legitimate public scrutiny of how well courts are meeting the public’s needs.
The collection, assessment and publication of performance measures is a discipline to which all Canadian courts and quasi-judicial tribunals should subject themselves. Funding challenges may hamper efforts to introduce or expand the use of such measures in some settings. I see a sad irony in this, as I feel confident that the investment of public funds in increased judicial performance measures would, in the long run, lower the public cost of judicial administration by promoting efficiencies, exposing inefficiencies and encouraging simplified processes. In my experience, having at hand the statistics collected in this volume has given our Court valuable insights into how we can do better.
While I am proud of our Court’s history of producing and publishing these statistics, we hope to do more. A consolidated annual report of the Court’s activities and accounts is currently beyond our capacity, but I hope one day it will form a cornerstone of the Court’s accountability practices.
Behind these statistics lies the immense hard work of the Supreme Court of Canada’s dedicated staff. They have, as always, my sincere thanks.
Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, P.C.
Chief Justice of Canada
See generally G. Gee and others, eds., The Politics of Judicial Independence in the UK’s Changing Constitution (Cambridge University Press, 2015).