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Chief Justice John Richard
Federal Court of Appeal
Presentation to Interim Ad Hoc Committee
On the Appointment of Supreme Court Judges
Ottawa - Parliament - West Block
August 25, 2004
The Canadian Judicial Council is entitled to name a representative to the Special Ad Hoc Committee on the Appointment of Supreme Court Judges. The protocol adopted by the House leaders of the various parties in the House of Commons stipulates that the Ad Hoc Committee will primarily comprise members of Parliament and will also include non-parliamentary representatives of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Canadian Judicial Council. The Canadian Judicial Council was created under the Judges Act and is made up of the Chief Justice of Canada, who serves as chairperson, the chief justice(s) and associate chief justice(s) of the superior courts, the senior judges of the supreme courts of the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories and the Nunavut Court of Justice, and the Chief Justice of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada.
The Council's mission is to promote efficiency and uniformity and to improve the quality of judicial service in superior courts.
The Chairperson of the Council, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, asked me to take part in the Committee's proceedings as the Canadian Judicial Council's representative. I am the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal and one of the Council's two vice-chairpersons.
The Canadian Judicial Council holds the view that the process of appointing judges to the Supreme Court of Canada must preserve confidence in the Supreme Court of Canada.
In a statement following its mid-year meeting in Ottawa on March 26, 2004, the Canadian Judicial Council endorsed the views expressed by the Council Chairperson and Chief Justice of Canada welcoming public discussion of the Supreme Court appointment process. The Council stated:
"The most important value in the appointment of judges is to sustain public confidence in the independence, ability and wisdom of the men and women named to the Court."The Canadian Judicial Council encouraged the Government to proceed with care and deliberation in creating any new process. It added: "We must ensure that judges of the Supreme Court of Canada continue to be drawn from the best legal minds of our country".
"The CBA is strongly opposed to any system which would expose judges to Parliamentary criticism of their judgments, or cross-examination on their belief or preferences or judicial opinions, or any measure which would give to Canadians the mistaken impression that the judicial branch answers to the legislative branch."An independent and impartial judiciary has long been recognized as essential to a free and democratic society; it is the constitutional right of every Canadian. Parliament, the legislators and the executive branch cannot, and should not appear to, exert political pressure on the judiciary. Since 1988, independent advisory committees in each of the provinces established by the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs oversee the appointment process for federally appointed Superior Court judges. These committees consist of members of the Bench, the Bar, and the general public and include nominees by the Attorney General of the province and of the federal Minister of Justice.