The Ontario Major Case Management System (Details)

Name of province/ territory:


City/ Region:

Province of Ontario

Description of Initiative:

Ontario is the first province to implement standardized investigative practices and supporting technology for major case investigations.

The Major Case Management (MCM) System was developed by the Ministry in partnership with the Ontario policing community in response to the Campbell Report recommendations. One of the key recommendations was the establishment of a common automated case management software application, mandated by regulation, for use in the investigation of homicides and sexual assaults.

In "Forsaken—The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry," Justice Oppal made recommendations that mirror many of those in the Campbell Report. Both inquiries arrived at a similar conclusion: the lack of cooperation, coordination and communication between police and other justice system partners contributed to a dangerous serial predator going undetected.

The MCM System is a case management methodology emphasizing accountability and a multidisciplinary approach to investigations of defined major offences. It comprises a centralized coordinating body; investigative standards; standardized training; the forensic, medical and scientific teamwork required to conduct these types of investigations effectively; and common case management technology for use by all Ontario police services. The MCM System also facilitates the coordination of all law enforcement agencies involved in multi-jurisdictional cases. It ensures the sharing of information between investigations in a manner that is based on cooperation among individual police services. The MCM software (PowerCase) provides investigators with the necessary tools to organize, manage, retrieve and analyze the potentially large volumes of investigative data collected during major case investigations.

PowerCase is the critical software to the MCM System. It assists police services in ensuring that major case investigations are focused, methodically controlled and audited throughout the investigative life cycle. It collects and manages information from multiple sources (such as officer reports, witness statements, canvas reports, tips, messages and phone records) gathered by numerous investigators, and stores it in a central repository so that authorized users have access to critical case data. The data can easily be traced back to its origins, establishing where evidence came from, and why, when and by whom it was collected. PowerCase indexes these documents by extracting and collating information from the text of the document, and then searches the database for similar records. Through the "triggering" module, it automatically examines existing data to connect commonalities and associations, and shares the information among police services across jurisdictional boundaries.

Every piece of information collected and every action taken in an investigation has the potential to be dissected during court proceedings. Evidence managed by PowerCase has stood up to intense scrutiny in high-profile cases and has been commended by the Ontario court system.

The MCM System is regarded as a world leader in the management of criminal investigations. It is continually refined to reflect current legislation, relevant case law, the latest innovations in science and technology, recommendations from public inquiries and policing best practices.

Initiative Key Objectives:

The goal when creating the Ontario MCM System was to prevent a tragic repeat of the systemic issues that arose in the Bernardo investigations, and develop a strategic defence against serial predators. Important provisions were created to ensure police investigators have the right support and the right information to achieve this goal: the MCM manual, the MCM software and the Serial Predator Crime Investigations Coordinator.

These innovative provisions facilitate the coordination of all Ontario law enforcement agencies involved in single-jurisdiction and multi-jurisdictional major cases, and ensure cooperation and information sharing between investigations.

Section Responsible for Implementation:

Major Case Management Unit

Key Contact:


Groups/ Agencies/ Key Partners Involved:

  • other police services
  • other government departments/agencies
  • academic institutes (research & evaluation) - consultative (information sharing)

Level of Involvement (consultative - information sharing) and/or cooperative - direct involvement):


Amount of Time Initiative has been in Place:

The MCM System was rolled out in the province of Ontario in 2000. On January 1, 2005, the MCM Regulation came into force and made the use of the MCM System mandatory for all police services.

Reason for Undertaking the Initiative:

The MCM System was created in response to the Campbell Report recommendations.

Following the court proceedings for the Paul Bernardo case, the Honourable Justice Archie Campbell was appointed to review and report on the roles played by the police, the Centre of Forensic Sciences, the Coroner and the provincial government during the Bernardo investigations. It was found that the lack of cooperation, coordination and communication between police and other justice system partners contributed to a dangerous serial predator going undetected. One of the key recommendations was the establishment of a common automated case management software application, mandated by regulation, for use in the investigation of homicides and sexual assaults.

In 1995, Paul Bernardo was convicted of crimes committed in Ontario between 1987 and 1992. He was declared a dangerous offender and sentenced to an indefinite period of imprisonment for the sexual assault of at least 18 women in three separate police jurisdictions, and the homicides of Kristen French, Leslie Mahaffy and Tammy Homolka.

Resources Required to Implement this Initiative:

In 1997, the Government of Ontario announced its intention to implement key recommendations of the Campbell Report, and allocated $25 million over a five-year period. Over that time, the MCM manual was created, the centralized oversight body was set up and the PowerCase software licence was obtained. The Province of Ontario has a master agreement with the vendor and provides the software to all Ontario police services free of charge pursuant to a memorandum of understanding.

Method of Implementation:

In 1997, the Campbell Report Transition Steering Committee was formed, comprised of senior police and ministry officials. The Campbell Report Implementation Project Team was created by this group to spearhead this initiative.

Implementation steps:

  • Ontario’s ViCLAS Centre was established in December 1996.
  • Mandatory ViCLAS reporting was regulated under the Police Services Act in February 1997.
  • In 1997, the Serial & Predator Crime Unit and the interdisciplinary MCM Executive Body were established to provide oversight and coordination in relation to predatory investigations between two or more jurisdictions.
  • Enhancements were made to the DNA Lab of the Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS).
  • The Quality Assurance Section was created within the CFS.
  • The automated Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) was implemented within the CFS to facilitate better tracking, management and status reporting regarding evidence submitted for forensic testing and will encourage the use of CFS records to identify linked cases.
  • The automated Coroner’s Information System (CIS) was implemented within the Office of the Chief Coroner to encourage the use of coroner’s death investigation records in support of police investigations and the identification of linkages.
  • “Made in Ontario” MCM training was designed for major case investigators assigned to sexual assault and homicide investigations.
  • A standardized MCM system was developed comprising of defined investigative standards, a centralized interdisciplinary executive body and common case management software for use by all Ontario Police Services in major case investigations involving single or multiple jurisdictions.

Key Outcomes of the Initiative:

The Ontario Major Case Management Regulation O. Reg. 354/04, under the Police Services Act, came into force January 1, 2005 and makes the use of the MCM System mandatory.

Since its inception, the Ontario MCM System has proven to be a valuable mechanism for organizing major investigations and identifying serial predators. Ontario's dedicated serial predator crime investigations coordinator provides consultative and advisory services to police services, facilitates interdisciplinary coordination in linked major case investigations and supports police services in the debriefing and/or review of major case investigations.

The Ontario MCM System now has a hierarchy of governance committees through which investigators have the ability to shape and enhance the MCM System:

• The User Group and Software User Group allow the MCM office to interact with the frontline users.
• The Steering Committee provides regular guidance on strategic direction for the MCM office.
• The Executive Board provides executive oversight.

Although initially purchased to coordinate a list of defined major cases, investigators involved in other complicated investigations have recognized the unique abilities of the PowerCase software and have begun to broaden its use to manage large and complex non-criteria offences such as organized crime projects and complicated frauds. The original design of the triggering software permits for triggering with multiple databases, whether those are regional MCM databases or other police databases. This potential is now being explored. In response to user feedback, the software was upgraded to receive data from the frontline records management systems being utilized within Ontario.

The MCM System was used in various high-profile cases, such as the investigations into the homicides of Holly Jones, Cecilia Zhang, Tori Stafford, Jessica Lloyd and Corporal Marie-France Comeau, and the Shafia family “honour” killings. Two examples of non-criteria cases which benefited from the organizational abilities of the MCM System are the Algo Centre Mall collapse in Elliot Lake, and the First Nations reclamation of Douglas Creek Estates in Haldimand County (Caledonia).

Availability of a Communication Strategy:


Key Messages used to Publicize the Initiative:


Forms of Evaluation by which the Initiative will be Assessed:

  • formative
  • summative
  • internal (in-house)
  • external (consultant/independent)
  • quantitative
  • qualitative
  • social return on investment

Evaluation Completed or Community Feedback Received:


Summary of the Outcomes:

Since the implementation of the MCM System, two architecture reviews, including cost–benefit analysis of options for the future, have been conducted by an external consultant—one in 2008 and one in 2011. Regularly scheduled reviews are conducted every two years to ensure that the MCM System remains “best in class.”

After an initial procurement process and two independent architecture reviews, the PowerCase software continues to be a high-quality solution that provides good customer satisfaction, is very cost-effective, and is proven to be "best in class."

Summary of the Performance Measure Data Collected:

1. The MCM Regulation O. Reg. 354/04, s. 2 (1) requires every Chief of Police to prepare and submit to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services:

a) an annual report setting out the number of major cases the force investigated in the previous year; and
b) any other information requested for audit and policy purposes by the Minister in respect of the force’s investigations of major cases.

The MCM software is designed to cross-compare data entered into the MCM system on a nightly basis in an effort to identify linked cases. The MCM software identifies potential matches, known as triggers, resulting in notifications being sent to investigators for follow-up. Notifications are not made in specific situations unless requested by investigators (for example, non-criteria cases). Data collected from police services shows that the total amount of potential matches continues to increase, confirming that the MCM software is being adopted and utilized more each year.

Economics of Policing Pillars:

Further Details:


Additional Comments or Suggestions:

It is our responsibility to share the benefits of the MCM System with the policing profession and justice system partners across the nation and internationally to prevent a tragic repeat of the systemic issues that arose in the Bernardo and Pickton investigations, and, ultimately, to save lives. Ontario’s MCM System is a proven methodology. It works.

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