2022 Year in Review

The Work at the Court

Take a peek at some of the work happening behind the scenes.

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Message from the Registrar

Watch this video message from the Registrar, Chantal Carbonneau.

After my first full year as Registrar, I had the opportunity to witness the dedication and professionalism of the employees of the Court. I feel incredibly proud of our team and how each member contributes to our success and makes this institution an outstanding place to work. Employees are crucial to improving access to justice, modernizing court operations and supporting the nine Supreme Court judges. From one sector to the other, we work together to make sure the Supreme Court of Canada is a world-class institution.

In 2022, the Court processed 650 case files and heard 52 appeals. We also welcomed 121 parties and 219 interveners to appear remotely and in person before the Court. When parties or judges were unable to attend a hearing in person, Court employees made sure they were able to connect remotely, avoiding delays and backlogs.

Access to justice and court modernization go hand-in-hand. At the beginning of 2023, the Court will launch its secure electronic filing portal for counsel and self-represented litigants. This will further improve public access to information online and contribute to an open, impartial and independent Court.

The courtroom re-opened to the public and the media this year and the building re-opened for in-person guided tours. Everyone should have the opportunity to visit our beautiful heritage building and deepen their understanding of Canada’s justice system. Over the past two years, we have heard that our virtual tours inspired people across Canada to learn about the Court. I am happy to share that we will continue to offer both in-person and remote tours for the foreseeable future.

Easing our way back into in-person activities at the Court was very positively received by many employees. In June, we celebrated National Public Service Week with an employee barbecue. This was the best attended employee event in the Court’s history. Through the Court’s creative annual charitable campaign, employees raised $38,330. Events such as these provided employees, including me, with overdue opportunities to connect and socialize with colleagues.

Coming up this year, I foresee a greater focus on employee well-being as well as further physical and IT security enhancements. In addition, we will continue with the considerable planning for our move to the West Memorial Building while the Supreme Court of Canada Building undergoes significant rehabilitation. I am proud of our achievements throughout the year and look forward to continuing to work collaboratively in providing excellent services for our judges and our institution in 2023.

Chantal Carbonneau’s signature

Chantal Carbonneau

Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada

Here for You

The Supreme Court of Canada is a modern institution approaching its 150th anniversary. From 1875 to today, it continues to meet the evolving needs and expectations of Canadians. Whether you make arguments before the judges, wish to tour the building or want to understand the role of the Court in Canada’s democracy – the judges and its employees are here for you.

In 2022, registry employees continued to exceed the expectations of lawyers who appear before the Court. In post-hearing surveys, counsel have said registry employees are responsive, friendly and knowledgeable. The registry also offers assistance to self-represented litigants, those who do not want or cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Last year staff managed 650 case files and answered 5,000 phone calls. Self-represented litigants and counsel each made up 40% of those calls, while members of the public accounted for the remaining 20% of calls to the registry.

In early 2023, the Court will launch its secure electronic filing portal. Modern and efficient, it allows counsel and self-represented litigants to register and file their documents online. “The technology that supports the portal will allow us, in the future, to further enhance access to Court documents,” said General Counsel Barbara Kincaid.

The Supreme Court of Canada is an internationally-recognized leader when it comes to upholding the open courts principle. In the courtroom, specialized interpreters provide simultaneous translation so anyone may listen to hearings in the official language of their choice. This serves people attending a hearing in-person, those tuning in online to watch the live webcast as well as those who watch the archived recording.

For the general public, the Court makes its judgments easier to understand by publishing plain language Cases in Brief that explain the context and judicial reasoning for its decisions. It briefs journalists on judgments and directs them to video clips of oral decisions from the bench. Every June, Chief Justice Richard Wagner takes questions from reporters at his annual news conference.

The Court also caters to anyone wanting to know more about the institution’s history, its role in Canada’s democracy and the building, with in-person and virtual tours. The Supreme Court also joined Instagram in 2022 to share more of its activities outside the courtroom. As the world continues to change, the Supreme Court will continue to find new ways to honour its core values of justice, independence, integrity, transparency and bilingualism.

Connect with us!

It has never been easier to access the Supreme Court of Canada. All hearings are webcast live and later archived on our website. The Court also expanded its social media presence in 2022. In addition to being active on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, the Court launched an Instagram account.

Touring the Supreme Court is a great activity for students, friends and families - no matter where you live. Expert tour interpreters guide in-person and remote visitors through the building in English or French, while explaining the history and crucial role of the Court in Canada’s democracy. The building is accessible to people of all abilities.

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A tour interpreter with a group of visitors

Tour interpreter Bernice-Marie welcoming visitors to the Court

Two tour interpreters in the Grand Hall

Tour interpreters Trystan and Annina are both in law school

A tour interpreter at his computer

Noah providing remote tours

Ask a Tour Interpreter

Supreme Court tour interpreters are law students with a passion for sharing their knowledge about the Court, judges and the building. Whether speaking to visitors in-person or on virtual tours, they answer many questions from curious Canadians, such as:

Civil law applies only in Quebec to most non-criminal matters. It recognizes legislation as the primary source of law. Common law applies in all other provinces and territories. There, judicial decisions are based on precedent and previous court judgments.

The only rule relating to the composition of the Supreme Court deals with geography, not gender. The Supreme Court Act says three judges must come from Quebec. Of the nine Members, four are women.

All Supreme Court judgments dating from 1877 are available on our website. New decisions are always posted in both official languages at 09:45 ET, along with a Case in Brief. This is a one-page, plain-language summary of the judgment. The open courts principle is crucial in a healthy democracy.

Every judge has the opportunity to write decisions. Sometimes, two or more judges will choose to write together.

Jury trials are held at lower courts across Canada. The Supreme Court does not hear from witnesses, and lawyers do not introduce evidence. Appeals made to the Supreme Court are primarily focused on complicated legal questions of national importance.

Canada’s Legal Library

The Supreme Court is home to one of Canada’s deepest and most varied collection of legal reading materials. From centuries-old rare books to an online selection of the most recent journal articles, the library is a rich source of information for the Court’s lawyers, judges and their clerks.

More valuable though, are the experienced librarians and technicians who know how and where to help people find jurisprudence, historical precedence or commentary. “If we don’t have it, we’ll know where to find it,” says Michel-Adrien Sheppard, manager of reference and research. He describes library employees as resourceful, dynamic and eager to take on challenging research requests.

“One thing most people do not know is that when there is a judgment, you can see all of the research about the cases and legislation from secondary sources such as textbooks and legal journals. The library is the infrastructure for that research, which feeds into the process of writing a decision.

Library Director Alicia Loo is especially proud of how her team has implemented new technologies to make individual research easier and more efficient. “We provide the same services that you would find in a world-class university,” says Loo. Converging access to both print and digital, the library has excellent breadth of coverage in the major areas of Canadian common law and Quebec civil law, as well as the laws of the United States, United Kingdom, France and Australia.

The Supreme Court library also serves lower court judges, members of any bar association, law professors and anyone with special authorization to access the library collection. The Court’s interlibrary loan technician responds to requests for the loan of physical and digital materials to other courts, universities and public libraries.

During the pandemic, the library hired a conservator to audit the condition of the rare book collection. The specialist treated any items with evidence of deterioration. “Our collection is very rich,” says Sheppard, “because we have not gotten rid of all of our older products.” He adds that it is especially helpful with research requests from those seeking the origins of a law or legal practice.