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Public Hearings of Judicial Appointments

For Immediate Release
Ottawa, Ontario February 22, 2006

When Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin warned against public hearings of Supreme Court of Canada candidates because she feared they would "politicize" the judiciary, she perhaps was not aware of the reality of the current system.  For example, in the two-year period that former Prime Minister Paul Martin and his Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler, were in power, the following individuals were given judicial appointments:

  • Michael Brown, Mr. Cotler's executive assistant and policy advisor;

  • Yves de Montigny, Mr. Cotler's Chief of Staff;

  • Randall Echlin, the Legal Counsel to the Ontario Liberal Party;

  • Rosalie Abella, (appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada), wife of Mr. Cotler's close friend, Irving Abella;

  • Marsha Erb, Alberta Liberal fundraiser, a close personal friend of Cotler's former Cabinet colleague, Anne McLellan;

  • John J. Gill, Co-chair of the 2004 Alberta federal Liberal campaign;

  • Vital Ouellette, an unsuccessful Alberta provincial Liberal candidate in 1997 and 2000 elections;

  • Bryan Mahoney, federal Liberal candidate who lost twice to federal Conservative MP Myron Thompson; and

  • Edmond Blanchard, former Liberal New Brunswick Minister of Finance.

When recently retired Chief Justice of Nova Scotia's Court of Appeal, The Hon. Madam Justice Constance Glube appeared as a witness on November 15, 2005 before the House of Commons Justice Committee which was reviewing the judicial appointments system, she acknowledged in her testimony that the judicial appointment system must be changed because the appointments were based not on merit, but rather on political considerations.  This marked the first time that a chief justice in Canada has publicly challenged the appointment system of judges.

On December 1, 2005, Chief Justice McLachlin stated in a speech given to the law students at the University of Wellington, New Zealand that judges may render their opinions based on 'unwritten' Constitutional norms, even in the face of clearly enacted laws or hostile public opinion.  She defined unwritten norms as those 'essential to a nation's history, identity, values and legal systems.'  Such norms, according to Judge McLachlin, could be properly understood and interpreted by appointed judges.

Under these circumstances, the introduction of public hearings of proposed Supreme Court of Canada judges is not only a reasonable procedure, but a necessary one in view of the authority and power now assumed by the Supreme Court of Canada over the lives of ordinary Canadians.

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Contact persons:
C. Gwendolyn Landolt Tel:  (905) 731-5425, 787-0348, 889-1993
Diane Watts Tel:  (613) 236-4001


REAL Women of Canada, Canada's Alternative Women's Movement  www.realwomenca.com/press.htm



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