The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) is a federal government organization, created on December 12, 2006, when the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, Part 3 of the Federal Accountability Act, came into force.
The PPSC fulfills the responsibilities of the Attorney General of Canada in the discharge of his criminal law mandate by prosecuting criminal offences under federal jurisdiction and by contributing to strengthening the criminal justice system.
In this regard, the PPSC assumes the role played within the Department of Justice Canada by the former Federal Prosecution Service (FPS), and takes on additional responsibilities for prosecuting new fraud offences under the Financial Administration Act as well as offences under the Canada Elections Act. Unlike the FPS, which was part of the Department of Justice, the PPSC is an independent organization, reporting to Parliament through the Attorney General of Canada.
The PPSC is responsible for prosecuting offences under more than 50 federal statutes and for providing prosecution-related legal advice to law enforcement agencies. Cases prosecuted by the PPSC include those involving drugs, organized crime, terrorism, tax law, money laundering and proceeds of crime, crimes against humanity and war crimes, Criminal Code offences in the territories, and a large number of federal regulatory offences.
The PPSC employs approximately 900 full time employees, including 500 prosecutors, and retains more than 810 private-sector lawyers as agents across Canada.
The creation of the PPSC reflects the decision to make transparent the principle of prosecutorial independence, free from any improper influence.
The mandate of the PPSC is set out in the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. The Act calls on the PPSC to provide prosecutorial advice to law enforcement agencies, and to act as prosecutor in matters prosecuted by the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of the Crown.
In addition, the mandate includes initiating and conducting prosecutions on behalf of the Crown with respect to offences under the Canada Elections Act.
The PPSC reports to Parliament through the Attorney General of Canada. The Director of Public Prosecutions Act states that the Director of Public Prosecutions acts “
under and on behalf of the Attorney General of Canada.” The relationship between the Attorney General and the Director is premised on the principles of respect for the independence of the prosecution function and the need to consult on important matters of general interest.
Safeguarding the Director's independence is the requirement that all instructions from the Attorney General be in writing and published in the Canada Gazette. In turn, the Director must inform the Attorney General of any prosecution or planned intervention that may raise important questions of general interest, allowing the Attorney General the opportunity to intervene in, or assume conduct of, a case. Additionally, the PPSC must provide the Attorney General with an annual report for tabling in Parliament.
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The mission of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada is to serve the public by:
We in the Public Prosecution Service of Canada are guided by our key values in carrying out our mandate:
Canadian courts expect a great deal from prosecutors, who are subject to ethical, procedural, and constitutional obligations. Traditionally, their role has been regarded as that of “
a representative of justice” rather than that of “
a partisan advocate.” Their functions are imbued with a public trust. Prosecutors are expected to discharge their duties with fairness, objectivity, and integrity. 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 the accused. As stated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Boucher v. The Queen,  S.C.R. 16, at 23-24:
It cannot be over-emphasized that the purpose of a criminal prosecution is not to obtain a conviction, it is to lay before a jury what the Crown considers to be credible evidence relevant to what is alleged to be a crime. Counsel have a duty to see that all available legal proof of the facts is presented: it should be done firmly and pressed to its legitimate strength, but it must also be done fairly. The role of prosecutor excludes any notion of winning or losing; his function is a matter of public duty than which in civil life there can be none charged with greater personal responsibility. It is to be efficiently performed with an ingrained sense of the dignity, the seriousness and the justness of judicial proceedings.
The core powers, duties, and functions of the Director of Public Prosecutions are set out in subsection 3(3) of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. These responsibilities include
When carrying out these statutory responsibilities, the Director is the Deputy Attorney General of Canada. Unless otherwise directed in writing by the Attorney General, the Director has the power to make binding and final decisions to prosecute offences under federal statutes.
The PPSC is not an investigative agency. It prosecutes when a charge has been laid pursuant to an investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) or some other police force or investigative agency of a violation of federal law. The PPSC provides advice and assistance to investigators at the investigative stage and works closely with them, particularly in terrorism, criminal organization, proceeds of crime, money laundering, market fraud, and mega cases.
The responsibilities of the PPSC vary somewhat by province and territory: