Criminal Law Policy Function Evaluation
5. Conclusions, Recommendations and Management Response
This Section of the report presents conclusions based on the findings outlined in the previous sections. The information is structured along the main evaluation issues.
CLPS plays a fundamental role in the development of Canada’s legislative framework. It serves the important and unique purpose of monitoring the implementation and application of criminal law, identifying trends and concerns, identifying options for reform, and where reforms are needed, the legal and criminological development of reforms and all tasks associated with the development of legislative proposals.
The work of CLPS responds directly to the government’s priorities for criminal justice as the Section is actively engaged in supporting the Minister’s criminal law reform and national security agenda. An ambitious government agenda on criminal law reform has translated into a sustained demand for the Section’s policy development expertise.
The basis for the federal role in the development of criminal law policy is found in the Department of Justice Act and under the Constitution Act, section 91(27) which provides that the criminal law, except the constitution of the courts of criminal jurisdiction, but including criminal procedure, are matters of exclusive federal authority.
5.2.1 Achievement of Expected Outcomes
The evaluation generally found a high level of satisfaction with CLPS services among all external key informant groups who indicated that the legal and policy advice provided by the Section of high-quality in that it is timely, useful, and responsive to their needs.
Various stakeholders such as the specialized sections within the Department, DLSUs and other departments feed into the Section’s policy work thereby contributing to the quality of the end product. Although CLPS’ partners indicated that they generally have a very good working relationship with the Section, they did identify a desire for more proactive outreach and information sharing. In particular, key informants noted that it would be helpful to know: CLPS’ priorities and any upcoming consultation/engagement activities so that they can anticipate and plan ahead for these; and the various points of contact within the Section for specific subject matter expertise. Additionally, some key informants noted a desire for improving the feedback loop since they can be left wondering how helpful their input was to the Section and if/how it was used. The evaluation also found that federal and departmental stakeholders are not necessarily aware of the need to contact CLPS at the outset when developing criminal justice initiatives with an international dimension, indicating a potential need for the Section to better communicate its role in this area.
That CLPS explore opportunities for enhancing proactive outreach and communication with key partners.
While sometimes there are limits imposed on the Section in relation to the extent to which it can engage in outreach or undertake consultations on particular files or share information about certain matters, there is always room for improvement, for example, in closing the feedback loop as is suggested.
We also take note of the view that the services we offer may not be as widely known throughout the government as perhaps they could be.
The pace of policy development has accelerated over the evaluation period. The associated short timelines were noted by almost all CLPS counsel as a constraint in their ability to provide high-quality legal policy advice. While multiple lines of evidence show that the Section is producing quality products in terms of what is asked for within established timelines, which are often very short, some respondents indicated that the level of analysis and development of policy options is adversely affected. The fact that policy and legislative initiatives must proceed quickly, leaves less time for counsel to undertake thorough analyses, fully develop options, build a complete record and conduct comprehensive consultations.
The process of engaging and collaborating with the provinces and territories, given their constitutional responsibility for the administration of justice, occurs primarily through the Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials (Criminal Justice) and its working groups. There is a record of meeting minutes for several, but not all working groups. Some key informants noted that the lack of meeting minutes/records of decisions taken in CCSO working groups can result in misunderstandings or differing recollections of meeting outcomes.
That CLPS work with the provinces and territories to assess the feasibility of implementing a process whereby short reports or summaries of decisions taken are recorded and distributed to CCSO Working Group members.
As a matter of practice, the Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials (Criminal Justice) (CCSO) has agreed upon the drafting a Decision Summary following its meetings. For example, a Decision Summary of the last CCSO plenary meeting was prepared and sent to CCSO members.
At the outset of each plenary meeting of CCSO, reports are provided on the results of the working group meetings, which are held in advance of the plenary meeting. These oral reports at the plenary meeting are reflected in the CCSO Decision Summary
CCSO Working Groups are mostly co-chaired by federal and provincial officials, so a collaborative effort is required.
The Section operates efficiently as it has been producing a greater level of output, that is, policy products and legal policy and legal advice with a lower level of input (financial resources and FTEs). Increasing demands and shorter timelines have placed significant pressures on the Section’s limited human and financial resources, prompting it to adopt a more strategic approach to service delivery. The Section has undertaken a number of steps to improve its efficiency while maintaining the quality of its services such as assigning files based on experience, expertise, workload and operational needs and keeping track of the advice it provides so that it can make use of it again, among others. Still, the evaluation identified other potential areas, such as the team structure, for further increasing efficiency given the pressures posed by an increased workload, less staff to carry out the work and the fast pace of policy development.
The team structure within the Section, which is organized by subject matter area helps ensure that it can effectively deliver policy development services as counsel possess expertise in substantive areas. However, the evaluation found that the team structure may not continue to reflect the scope of the Section’s work and the government’s emphasis on certain priorities over others. The Section may need to be more flexible in aligning its resources with changing government priorities so that it is fully optimizing the resources it has at its disposal.
That the Section explore opportunities to re-align resources to more effectively and efficiently address the demand for services, including new priority issues.
The Section has in place a team structure, which assists in the management of the Section.
Team organizations enable officers working on related issues to share knowledge, expertise and workload. They also frequently involve officers from other teams where issues intersect. Opportunities for such intersection between teams are encouraged and supported in practice.
Where large issues arise that demand immediate attention, the Section has drawn from various teams to put in place a surge capacity. Examples include the development and support of the Anti-terrorism Act following September 11, 2001 and, more recently, in supporting the Government’s proposed legislative initiative in relation to the Victims Bill of Rights.
As part of the Section’s response to the Public Service Employee Survey 2011, various actions have been undertaken as a means to optimize resources and promote career and people management, among other objectives, including: promoting Individual Learning Plans; Talent Management; mentoring and training, including in-house training and information sessions; and having back-ups on files.
Given our resource challenges, we have increasingly been seeking expressions of interest throughout the Section in respect of various acting opportunities and particular tasks to be performed or positions to be filled.
We are aware of the advantages to be gained by the employees themselves, and by the Department, in having employees learn new skills and gain new experience by working on different files and on multi-disciplinary teams and by being exposed to new work.
Although the Section is achieving its expected outcomes using a limited amount of financial and human resources, it is not operating in a manner that is sustainable. More than one third of CLPS staff who completed the 2011 Public Service Employee Survey indicated that they are not able to complete their assigned workload during their regular working hours (sometimes, rarely never/almost never). Moreover, multiple lines of evidence indicated that the demanding work environment is beginning to have a negative impact on staff morale.
The convergence of several factors, that is, the loss of counsel (particularly at the senior level), an increased demand for the Section’s services, and short turnaround times are considered to pose a growing pressure on the Section’s limited resources. Although the Section has experienced a rise in demand for its services, there has not been a corresponding increase in financial and human resources. In fact, the Section has experienced a substantial decrease, in both expenditures and FTEs over the evaluation period. While this has translated into some cost savings in that there is now a greater use of alternative means of participation in meetings, some key informants indicated that travel restrictions are negatively impacting CLPS’ ability to promote and protect Canadian interests in the context of the elaboration of international instruments.
The travel cap has also limited counsel’s ability to attend training. In response, the Section has organized and offered in-house training for policy officers (CLPS counsel training CLPS counsel). Key informants noted that these sessions not only help meet the needs of counsel in terms of the continuing professional development requirements of their law society, they promote a better awareness of specific files and their challenges and build camaraderie within the Section.
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