The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

It’s time Canada’s courts joined the 21st Century

February 1 2017 1 February 2017

It’s an idea whose time came some time ago – and then it had to wait around for someone in charge to notice.

But now the Courts Administration Service has announced an initiative to modernize its technological infrastructure to create a fully electronic-based system for the Federal Court, Tax Court and Federal Court of Appeal, and the CBA’s Federal Courts and Tax Court bench and bar committee couldn’t be more pleased, calling it a move that is both worthwhile and necessary.

The Federal Courts and Tax Court already have an electronic registry system, the committees note in their letter to the Justice Minister, but its capacity is limited and to use it is labour-intensive. Access to documents filed with the courts can be limited by the number of copies filed and by physical location.

As suggested in a 2014 CBA resolution calling for the creative use of technology by the country’s legal providers, the proposed e-court system will improve access to justice by making court records accessible anywhere in Canada.

“Greater access to court records would improve transparency for litigants, many of whom represent themselves, and would facilitate access to a wider range of information for counsel, allowing for more informed action,” the letter says. This could be a factor in cases of intellectual property, for example, where “electronic access to records can provide additional information for litigants and support broader statistical information.”

Electronic record-keeping is more efficient, particularly in cases which require the filing of a lot of documents, and reduces the risk of files being lost or destroyed, the committees note.

“Your government has undertaken to modernize and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, including improved use of information technology to make the system more efficient and timely,” the letter says. “The same benefits would accrue in the Federal Courts and Tax Court, and we encourage you to extend the modernization accordingly.”

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