Federal Court Modernization

The Federal Courts Rules have been amended to remove obstacles to greater use of technology by the court. Among other things, the changes permit the registry to maintain an official electronic record, clarifying electronic service, amend the definition of ‘document’ and permit electronic filing. Also, the Federal Court has published a Notice to the Profession regarding obtaining copies from the digital audio recording system used at hearings.

The Rules changes were published yesterday in the Canada Gazette (link) and came into force January 30, 2015. Some documents on the history of these amendments:

  • Information Technology and the Federal Courts Rules: A Discussion Paper of the Federal Courts Rules Committee, Sub-Committee on Technology from May 2011 (link – blog post)
  • Pre-publication of the proposed rules – January 24, 2014 in Part I of the Canada Gazette (link)
  • Publication of the amendments – February 11, 2015 in Part II of the Canada Gazette (link)

As identified in the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, the amendments are intended to address:

  1. Repeal references limiting certain documents to paper documents only;
  2. Allow electronic service of documents;
  3. Allow electronic filing of documents; and
  4. Clarify that the fees under Tariff A apply to paper copies.

Some of the particular changes which may be of interest:

  • if a document is filed electronically, the Eastern time zone shall apply – see Rule 71.1(2)
  • rule 222 defining a “Document” has been substantially amended:

222. (1) In rules 223 to 232 and 295, “document” includes an audio recording, a video recording, a film, a photograph, a chart, a graph, a map, a plan, a survey and a book of account, computer diskette and any other device on which information is recorded or stored as well as data that is recorded or stored on any medium in or by a computer system or other similar device and that can be read or perceived by a person or a computer system or other similar device.

  • a party may consent to electronic service by serving and filing a new form 141A and can then be served by transmitting documents by email to the addresses provided on that form. The email address should be listed on the first page of documents – see Rules 66(2), 139 and 141.
  • Tariff A has been amended to clarify that fees for copies of documents from the registry is for paper copies.

The Federal Court currently does have a facility for electronic filing (link) and, for case managed proceedings, accepts some materials by email.

Regarding the Digital Audio Recording System (DARS), the Notice to Profession (pdf) provides a pilot project for requesting and obtaining either a copy of the audio recording or a transcript of the hearing. A request form is included as an annex to the Notice.