Areas of Practice
The Department of Justice provides legal and policy advice on issues relevant across the mandate of the federal government. Justice lawyers have the opportunity to be involved in virtually every aspect of the law, from the development of policy to the drafting of legislation, and from litigation to the provision of legal advice to client departments and agencies. The structure of the Department also means that different counsel in different offices, and indeed, in different cities, might work on any aspect of a file, bringing their own specialized knowledge and experience to bear on the issues at hand. While particular regional offices focus on some areas of practice more than others, practising law in the Department of Justice generally means working in one or more of the following areas.
Counsel provide litigation, policy and legal advisory services, primarily to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, on the broad and rapidly developing area of Aboriginal law, including Aboriginal rights, specific and comprehensive land claims, self-government, and Indian residential schools. The Aboriginal Law Section has functional responsibility within the Department of Justice to ensure consistency in policy and practice in Aboriginal law matters.
Business and Regulatory Law
The Business and Regulatory Law Portfolio is one of the largest and most varied in the Department of Justice. Counsel in this portfolio provide litigation, policy and legal advisory services to client departments and agencies whose mandates have in common a strong regulatory, business or public safety component. These clients include Correctional Service of Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, National Defence, the RCMP, Health Canada, and Transport Canada.
The Department of Justice is a bilingual and bijural organization, reflecting the very nature of Canada’s justice system. Lawyers and notaries in this area of practice interpret and apply the Civil Code of Quebec as it relates to the work of the federal government. They are also involved in international activities in La Francophonie, Eastern Europe and the Council of Europe, and work to promote access to legal services in both English and French under the auspices of the National Program for the Integration of Both Official Languages in the Administration of Justice (POLAJ).
Commercial transactions and property law issues arise in a variety of contexts and situations among the Department of Justice's many client departments and agencies. The Department's commercial law work is also rapidly expanding into the area of e-commerce.
Criminal and Social Policy
Making the law and the justice system more equitable and working to ensure that Canadian criminal and family law serves the changing needs of Canadian people are the challenges of counsel working in this area. Among the many issues counsel deal with are family violence and child sexual abuse; youth justice; reproductive technologies and other medical-legal issues; equality and equity; sentencing; firearms control; and Aboriginal justice.
Counsel provide direct legal services to clients such as Environment Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. They also work on environmental law issues that arise in the ongoing business of other federal departments and agencies, including Parks Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs, and Fisheries and Oceans.
Counsel practising immigration law represent the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in hearings, and deal with complex legal and policy issues that involve international, constitutional and administrative law.
Justice lawyers are involved in all aspects of the law regulating employment in the federal sector in Canada, including equity and harassment issues and the implementation and enforcement of federal labour law.
Counsel in Legislative Services draft all government-sponsored bills and examine government regulations and statutory instruments for form, validity and compliance with the Charter and other federal legislation. Counsel are assisted in these duties by linguistic revisers and legislative editors.
Justice lawyers are involved in all aspects of civil, criminal and tax litigation across the country, including civil proceedings, criminal prosecutions under a variety of federal statutes, and income tax appeals. In representing the federal government before courts and tribunals, litigation lawyers work closely with their colleagues in departmental legal services units and client departments and agencies.
The Department of Justice has a wide variety of public law responsibilities. These include providing advice and policy support on constitutional, international, Aboriginal, human rights and administrative law issues, as well as on matters involving official languages and judicial affairs. Counsel in this area are a source of expertise in the law that governs the structure and operations of government. In addition to providing advice and support on legal issues, they also support public law reform in such areas as administrative law and procedure and private international law.
Tax Law (Tax Litigation)
Counsel conduct litigation in all civil appeals from income tax and GST assessments, as well as in collections matters. They also handle certain appeals under the Canada Pension Plan and the Employment Insurance Act. The Department also provides support and advice on the interpretation of the Income Tax Act and works closely with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency in this and related matters. Counsel appear before the Tax Court and Federal Court of Canada across the country.
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