1. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada – An Overview

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) is an independent and accountable prosecuting authority whose main objective is to prosecute cases under federal jurisdiction in a manner that is free from any improper influence.


The mandate of the PPSC is set out in the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. The Act empowers the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to:

For the purposes of carrying out these statutory responsibilities, the DPP is the Deputy Attorney General of Canada.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Act also empowers the DPP to:

The DPP has the rank and status of a deputy head of a department, and in this capacity is responsible for the management of the PPSC as a distinct governmental organization.

With the exception of Canada Elections Act matters, the Attorney General can issue a directive to the DPP about a prosecution or assume conduct of a prosecution, but must do so in writing and a corresponding notice must be published in the Canada Gazette. In turn, the DPP must inform the Attorney General of any prosecution or planned intervention that may raise important questions of general interest. Similarly, the Attorney General can assign additional responsibilities to the DPP, provided the assignment is in writing and published in the Canada Gazette.

In compliance with the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, Canada Elections Act matters have been excluded from this report.

Mission and Values


The mission of the PPSC is to serve the public by:


In carrying out its mandate, the PPSC is guided by key values:

Assignments and Directives

In 2013–2014, no assignments or directives were issued by the Attorney General of Canada to the DPP, nor did the Attorney General assume conduct of any prosecutions.

Roles and Responsibilities

The PPSC prosecutes offences created by federal laws laid following an investigation by a law enforcement agency. The PPSC is not an investigative agency and does not conduct investigations. The separation of law enforcement from the prosecution function is a well-established principle of the Canadian criminal justice system. However, cooperation between investigators and prosecutors can be essential, particularly in the context of large and complex cases. Certain investigative tools, such as an application for a wiretap authorization, are only obtained on application to the court by a prosecutor. As a result, the PPSC often provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement officials at the investigative stage.

In all provinces and territories except Quebec and New Brunswick, the PPSC is responsible for prosecuting all drug offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), regardless of which police agency investigates the alleged offences. In Quebec and New Brunswick, the PPSC prosecutes only drug offences investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

In all provinces and territories, the PPSC prosecutes charges under federal statutes such as the Income Tax Act, the Fisheries Act, the Excise Act, the Customs Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Canada Shipping Act, and the Competition Act, as well as conspiracies and attempts to violate these statutes. In total, over 250 federal statutes contain offences that fall under the PPSC’s jurisdiction to prosecute, and the PPSC regularly prosecutes offences under approximately 40 of those statutes.

The PPSC is responsible for prosecuting all Criminal Code offences in the territories. In the provinces, the PPSC has jurisdiction to prosecute a limited number of Criminal Code offences, including those related to terrorism, criminal organizations, money laundering, proceeds of crime, and fraud. Under arrangements with the provinces, the PPSC may also prosecute Criminal Code offences that are otherwise within a provincial jurisdiction when the accused also faces charges within federal jurisdiction.

Role of the Prosecutor

Prosecutors play a key role in the Canadian criminal justice system. This role is quasi-judicial in nature, and has been described by the Supreme Court of Canada as a “Minister of Justice” responsibility, imposing on prosecutors the duty to be objective, independent, and dispassionate. They must see that all cases deserving of prosecution are brought to trial and prosecuted with competence, diligence, and fairness. Prosecutors must be of integrity, above all suspicion, and must exercise the considerable discretion bestowed on them fairly, in good faith, and without any consideration of the political implications of their decisions. 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 an accused.

About the Organization

As of March 31, 2014, the PPSC had 1,059 employees, 531 of whom were lawyers. In addition to staff prosecutors, the PPSC retained the services of approximately 200 private-sector law firms, or 473 individually appointed lawyers, as standing agents.

PPSC Headquarters is located in Ottawa, and the organization maintains a network of eleven regional and seven local offices across Canada. Some PPSC staff prosecutors are also co-located with integrated enforcement teams across Canada.

Organizational Structure

Organizational Structure graphic
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Department of Justice Canada

The PPSC maintains a close and cooperative working relationship with the Department of Justice Canada. PPSC prosecutors consult Justice counsel in areas such as human rights law, constitutional law, Aboriginal law, and public law.

The PPSC relies on the Department of Justice for system-related services and other limited internal services where the PPSC is co-located with Justice offices, such as payroll, library, and reception services. Memoranda of understanding have been developed to govern the corporate and legal services provided by the Department of Justice and the PPSC to each other and on each other’s behalf.

Investigative Agencies

The PPSC provides advice to law enforcement agencies on request during their investigations. The early involvement of prosecutors during investigations ensures that investigators receive timely advice on the techniques they are using and that the evidence is gathered in a manner that complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the laws of evidence.

Provinces and Territories

The federal and provincial governments share jurisdiction over prosecutions. This shared jurisdiction means cooperation and coordination are essential to the effective enforcement of the law. The PPSC and provincial prosecution services have standing and ad hoc arrangements that allow the prosecution service prosecuting an offence within its jurisdiction to also prosecute related “minor” offences that would normally fall under the jurisdiction of the other prosecution service. For example, the PPSC may prosecute a Criminal Code offence that is within provincial jurisdiction with the consent and on behalf of a provincial attorney general where it is related to a more serious federal charge. Similarly, provincial prosecution services may prosecute federal offences when they come about in relation to a more serious offence under the Criminal Code. The delegation relates only to the conduct of the prosecution. The jurisdiction delegating the conduct of the prosecution retains ultimate control over the prosecution and over major decisions regarding the case.

In the territories, all Criminal Code prosecutions are conducted by the PPSC. The PPSC also has arrangements with the territories to conduct certain territorial prosecutions.

PPSC Deskbook

Federal prosecutors are guided by the rules and guidelines included in the FPS Deskbook, a publication created by the former Federal Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice Canada.

As an independent and accountable prosecuting authority, the PPSC has since developed its own policy manual. The PPSC Deskbook is expected to be introduced later this year.

The Deskbook sets out the guiding principles that all federal prosecutors must follow for the initiation and conduct of prosecutions. It contains the directives and guidelines that guide all federal prosecutors in the exercise of their prosecutorial discretion.

Once it has been introduced, the PPSC Deskbook will be publicly available on the PPSC’s website.

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