Lib­er­als crit­i­cized on ju­di­cial choices

Montreal Gazette - - POLITICS - DOU­GLAS QUAN AND MARIE-DANIELLE SMITH dquan@post­ md­smith@post­

Af­ter promis­ing to bring more trans­parency to the way it ap­points judges in this coun­try, the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is be­ing ac­cused of do­ing the op­po­site.

New fed­eral data show that there were 74 su­pe­rior court ap­point­ments across the coun­try over the past year — split evenly be­tween men and women. Three were In­dige­nous and nine were vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties.

Dur­ing that pe­riod, a to­tal of 441 can­di­dates were screened by gov­ern­ment ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees with 129 clas­si­fied as “highly rec­om­mended,” 82 as “rec­om­mended” and 230 as “un­able to rec­om­mend.”

How­ever, on Mon­day, nei­ther the agency that com­piled the data, the Of­fice of the Com­mis­sioner for Fed­eral Ju­di­cial Af­fairs Canada, nor the of­fice of Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould, would pro­vide a break­down show­ing how many of the 74 ap­pointees were drawn from the “highly rec­om­mended” pool of can­di­dates ver­sus the “rec­om­mended” group.

The Globe and Mail re­ported that “a num­ber” of judges were drawn from the sec­ond tier of can­di­dates.

Mur­ray Rankin, the NDP jus­tice critic, said he doesn’t un­der­stand why the Lib­er­als can’t pro­vide more ag­gre­gate data. “I’m not en­tirely sure why we couldn’t know, why we’re not en­ti­tled to know, how of­ten the min­is­ter is dip­ping into the merely ‘rec­om­mended’ as op­posed to the ‘highly rec­om­mended’ pool,” he said.

In a state­ment re­leased through her of­fice, Wil­sonRay­bould said when she makes ju­di­cial ap­point­ments, she con­sid­ers a num­ber of fac­tors, in­clud­ing their ex­per­tise, the needs of the court and the strength of their ap­pli­ca­tion.

“Whether some­one is rec­om­mended or highly rec­om­mended is one fac­tor that I take into ac­count, among many im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tions, in ex­er­cis­ing my pre­rog­a­tive to ap­point the best can­di­dates to the ju­di­ciary.”

An of­fi­cial from her of­fice would not con­firm whether judges were in­deed drawn from the “rec­om­mended” pool of can­di­dates. But the of­fi­cial said a prospec­tive judge’s ex­per­tise might be one rea­son why some­one would be drawn from one pool rather than the other.

If some­one is re­quired who is strong in fam­ily law or in wills and es­tates, “you need to find some­body to fit that bill.” That might mean pulling some­one from the list of “rec­om­mended” judges, if none in the “highly rec­om­mended” pile are specif­i­cally qual­i­fied in that area.

The of­fi­cial re­jected any sug­ges­tion that “rec­om­mended” judges are some­how not qual­i­fied.

Caro­line Masse, a spokes­woman for the Of­fice of the Com­mis­sioner for Fed­eral Ju­di­cial Af­fairs Canada, said it chose not to re­lease a more de­tailed break­down of the data to pro­tect the pri­vacy of those ap­pointed to the bench.

“Pro­vid­ing a break­down re­gard­ing ap­pointees and whether they were highly rec­om­mended or rec­om­mended, would breach the can­di­dates’ pri­vacy as it would al­low lit­i­gants or any­one else to de­ter­mine whether or not a par­tic­u­lar judge was rec­om­mended or highly rec­om­mended by sim­ply re­fer­ring to their bi­og­ra­phy and com­par­ing it to th­ese statis­tics,” she said in an email.

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