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

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

Abbotsford’s Tradex has been transformed into a volleyball and basketball facility with Open Court. (Instagram photo)
Abbotsford’s Tradex transforms into sports facility

Open Court program hosting volleyball and basketball teams for practices and possibly games

Abbotsford’s Skully White (left), who donated his kidney in December, has started a campaign to find other recipients and donors. The first candidate is retired police officer Gavin Quon. White owns and operates a hotdog stand, Lullys Food Experience, out of the Abbotsford Canadian Tire parking lot. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford hotdog-stand owner starts campaign to find kidney donors and recipients

Skully White donated his kidney to customer Tim Hiscock in December

The Harrison Hot Springs Resort. Visitors to the resort currently pay a three per cent “hotel tax,” which is brought back to the district to help fund tourism initiatives. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Harrison hoping to expand hotel tax to Kent, parts of Fraser Valley

The expanded area would bring in more money for Tourism Harrison marketing

Dallas Lajimodiere is wanted by the Abbotsford Police Department.
Man wanted by Abbotsford Police domestic violence unit

Dallas Lajimodiere has three arrest warrants, including for assault with a weapon

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

Most Read