The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

No minorities, one woman sought latest Supreme Court seat: panel chair

Kim Campbell said more minorities, women could fill vacancies if the federal government wasn’t scrambling

More women, Indigenous and minority judges could find themselves on the Supreme Court if the government took a longer view of filling spots instead of scrambling to fill vacancies, says former prime minister Kim Campbell.

Campbell headed the advisory body that led to Quebec judge Nicholas Kasirer’s being nominated to succeed Justice Clement Gascon. Her group crafted a short list of Supreme Court for the government to consider.

She and Justice Minister David Lametti talked about the nomination process before Kasirer faced MPs and senators for formal questioning on Thursday.

Among the 12 applicants for the job opened by Gascon’s impending retirement, there was only one woman and none were Indigenous or self-identified as a minority, Campbell told the House of Commons justice committee Thursday.

Campbell suggested that rather than opening applications whenever a vacancy pops up — even retirements that come with six months of notice, as Gascon’s has — federal officials could have ongoing talks with the judiciary and the wider legal community about the needs of the Supreme Court to encourage more people to apply, particularly women and minorities.

“If this were an ongoing conversation as opposed to something that we scramble to do just in the face of an imminent departure from the court and the need to recruit a new candidate, I think this might be something that could broaden the scope of the candidates,” Canada’s first female justice minister and only female prime minister so far said by video conference from B.C.

Kasirer’s name was on the short list the advisory committee provided to the government. Ultimately, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau selected Kasirer from the Quebec Court of Appeal at the end of the confidential nomination process.

Anyone involved in the process signed confidentiality agreements to make sure names didn’t become public like they did earlier this year, Lametti told parliamentarians.

The Canadian Press and CTV reported in March that former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould recommended Glenn Joyal, chief justice of Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench, be appointed Supreme Court chief justice the last time there was a vacancy. That was caused by the retirement of chief justice Beverley McLachlin.

Trudeau disagreed: he elevated Justice Richard Wagner, already on the court, to replace McLachlin, and named Justice Sheilah Martin from Alberta to fill Wagner’s spot.

Colouring the leaks was Jody Wilson-Raybould’s public testimony that she felt improperly pressured last fall to stop the criminal prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, and her belief she was moved out of the justice portfolio because of her refusal to do so.

ALSO READ: B.C. court gives federal government more time to fix solitary confinement

“The disclosure of confidential information regarding candidates for judicial appointments is unacceptable and I want to stress that I took strict measures to ensure that confidentiality was respected,” Lametti said in his opening remarks to the committee.

Lametti said he still doesn’t know where the leaks about Joyal came from, but he limited the number of people who had access to the relevant information this time and even ordered the server holding data about the nomination process isolated from the rest of the Justice Department.

Campbell said her advisory board of eight, mostly professors and senior lawyers, would even try to go for dinner in places where no one would know them or have an inkling why they were together.

At the end of the meeting, deputy Conservative leader Lisa Raitt tried unsuccessfully to get the justice committee to investigate the Joyal leak, with the vote on her motion splitting along partisan lines.

During his afternoon question-and-answer session with federal politicians, Kasirer largely avoided going into details on legal issues that might land before the high court, including minority-language rights and the use of the Charter’s notwithstanding clause — both issues in his home province of Quebec.

Instead, over more than two hours, he broadly talked about the role of judges — they should be restrained in their work, he said — how he views the law, some of his previous law articles, and how judges interact with legislatures and Parliament.

“Judges don’t enact laws — it’s what you do,” Kasirer said in one response to one question, variations of which were asked more than once.

“Parliament listens to what the Supreme Court and other courts say and, naturally enough, it’s the job of judges to apply the law that Parliament enacts,” he said.

Kasirer has served on the Quebec Court of Appeal for a decade and is an expert in civil law. He also spent 20 years as a professor of law at McGill University, including as dean of the law faculty.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From the court to coaching: Kody Worden

‘Basketball has brought me a lot of joy and I hope it does the same for the students I coach’

Williams Lake City Council and community advocacy leads to GPS monitoring of six prolific offenders

Counc. Scott Nelson said he is happy at this result and hopes to build on momentum

Off-duty Burnaby officer helps apprehend Cache Creek car thief fleeing towards Clinton

‘This is just one example of how we are always ready to respond to emergencies’

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks with feds, province

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

‘The project is proceeding’: Horgan resolute in support of northern B.C. pipeline

B.C. premier speaks as talks scheduled with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Most Read