Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin Sees 'Satisfactory' End To IT Impasse With Feds

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OTTAWA — It appears the federal Liberals and Canada's highest courts have averted a legal showdown over an information-technology decision by the previous Conservative government that irked the country's top judges.

That decision forced the courts to use the government's central IT department, Shared Services Canada, for all IT purchases, such as servers, routers and software, as of Sept. 1, rather than letting them make the procurements on their own.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act showed the Supreme Court, the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Court Martial Appeal Court and Tax Court were all threatening legal action over the move. 

beveryly mclachlin
Beverly McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, delivers a speech in Ottawa. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/CP)

They were arguing that the decision infringed on their judicial independence, even though Shared Services Canada wasn't going to house any of the court records in any of their data centres.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, now says court representatives have met with government officials and the high court is "expecting a satisfactory resolution of the issue shortly."

A spokeswoman for Public Services Minister Judy Foote, who oversees Shared Services Canada, declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the Privy Council Office, the bureaucracy that supports the prime minister and cabinet, says the government will seek a solution that ensures any shared IT services provided to the courts "do not in any way compromise the principle of judicial independence."

Akim Isabelle Thibouthot didn't say whether that solution would involve a complete reversal of the original Conservative decision last spring.

The move, approved by the Conservative cabinet in May 2015, was supposed to save money and improve security, since Shared Services Canada buys in bulk for the federal government from safe suppliers.


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