The Federal Court - Looking to the Future

AuthorChief Justice Paul Crampton
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The Federal Court Looking to
the Future
Chief Justice Paul Crampton
[W]e still conduct civil trials almost exactly the same way as we did in
1906. Any good litigator from 1906 could, with a few hours of coaching,
feel perfectly at home in today’s courtrooms. Can we say that about any
other profession?
     to the future, it is being transformed from
a paper-based institution to a more digital, innovative, f‌lexible, and easily
accessible participant in the justice system across Canada.
is transformation is accelerating as the court continues to adapt to
the evolving challenges presented by the COVID- pandemic. At the time
of writing, the second wave of the pandemic was continuing to sweep across
the country. Much uncertainty remained regarding the nature and timing of
future workf‌lows and how they would be addressed.
However, one thing was very clear. ere would be no going back to
the way things were before the pandemic, at least not on a generalized basis.
ere would be a “new normal.”
1 Rosalie Silberman Abella, “Our Justice System Needs to Be Brought Into the 21st
Century” Globe and Mail (24 April 2020) at O3, online:
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        
e pandemic had already wreaked economic havoc, taken many lives,
and caused enormous personal hardship. But it had also presented a silver
lining the need to expedite the court’s shift to being a more digital par-
ticipant in the justice system across Canada. is shift was the focal point of
the public consultation process that was launched in the summer of , in
relation to the court’s – Strategic Plan.2 Technological modernization
was also a major focus of the court’s – Strategic Plan.3 So the court and
its users had already embarked down the path of doing things very dierently
than they have been done for over a century.
is greatly assisted the adjustments that were necessary to deal with the
pandemic. is was particularly so with respect to the evolution away from
paper f‌iles to electronic documents and the transition from in-person hear-
ings to virtual hearings. When it became no longer possible to access paper
f‌iles at oces around the country, or to hold non-urgent in-person hearings,
the court was able to adapt swiftly. Instead of losing valuable time discuss-
ing whether to embrace that change, the court was able to focus on how that
change could be accelerated.
An important example of this was the court’s decision to adopt virtual
hearings as the default mode of scheduling applications for judicial review
across the country. at decision followed the successful rollout of virtual
hearings relatively early on in the f‌irst wave of the pandemic, when non-ur-
gent in-person hearings were suspended. at success made it easy to “nor-
malize” electronic hearings, even as the court gradually reopened its facilities
across the country in the summer of .
Looking to the future, while keeping mindful of the uncertain nature
and extent of the evolution of the COVID- pandemic, the court’s path for-
ward will be guided by two overarching themes: (i) signif‌icantly increasing
access to justice, and (ii) enhancing its ability to serve the public from coast
to coast to coast, both in person and online.
In pursuing these paramount goals, the court will be building on the
foundation that has been established over the course of its f‌ifty-year history.
Canada, Federal Court, Strategic Plan 2020–2025 (15 July 2020), online:
[Strategic Plan 2020–2025].
3 Canada, Federal Court, Strategic Plan 2014–2019, online:
COA%20and%20accessibility)%20English.pdf [Strategic Plan 2014–2019].

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