New process for selection of Supreme Court justices

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the Liberal government will change the manner in which a Supreme Court justice is selected.

As part of the new process, Trudeau says former prime minister Kim Campbell will chair a new “independent and non-partisan advisory board” to recommend candidates for the high court.

In a letter published Tuesday in the Globe and Mail, Trudeau writes that the new appointment process will be “open, transparent and will set a higher standard for accountability.”

He said the application process will be opened so any Canadian lawyer or judge who fits such criteria as being functionally bilingual can apply for the high court.

Once a candidate has been selected, writes Trudeau, members of Parliament will be able to “directly engage with the nominee” before she or he is appointed to the Supreme Court.

The board to be chaired by Campbell will have seven members. Four will be designated by the Canadian Judicial Council, the Canadian Bar Association, the Federation of Law Societies and the Council of Canadian Law Deans.

The remaining three will be prominent Canadians, at least two of whom will be from outside the legal community, appointed by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

“Gone are the days of governments – Liberal and Conservative alike _ nominating Supreme Court justices through a secretive backroom process,” wrote Trudeau.
“Canadians deserve better.”

Reacting to the news, Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia says, “Transparency is absolutely necessary in a new political climate where bi-partisan politics points the finger,” and she agrees that the “judicial appointment system must be changed.”

Gadhia tells she applauds word that the government will mandate the advisory board to support the goal of a gender-balanced Supreme Court that also reflects Canada’s diverse society.

“I am optimistic for the future, and see that great strides have been made with the appointment of more female judges,” says Gadhia.

“However, there is still room for improvement to retain women in the profession, first as lawyers, which then provides a larger pool to draw from when appointing judges,” she notes.

“I am also encouraged by seeing the Call to the Bar ceremonies that the new lawyers in Ontario are more racially diverse than when I was called 19 years ago,” says Gadhia.

“Does this in turn suggest the promise of a more diverse judiciary in the next five, 10, 15, 20 years? Perhaps, but under the current regime with little or no statistics and data, there is no way to measure beyond the anecdotal,” she says.

The bottom line, says Gadhia is the “current system cannot continue as it lacks transparency, does not maintain data and statistics, and remains cloaked in secrecy and therefore word that it is being overhauled is welcome news.”

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