You may have recently read about the nomination of two Canadian judges for positions on the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court is an essential part of our judicial system, and every Canadian should know a few facts surrounding the institution.
The Court renders verdicts on between 40 and 75 cases each year; last resort cases that have exhausted the process in one of the 750 lower Canadian courts. Decisions made by the judges presiding over the Court are irreversible. But the Supreme Court deals with more than criminal law: it is also a forum in which to debate policy, and has the power to interpret vital constitutional documents.
Nine judges preside over the Supreme Court – a Chief Justice and eight lower judges. By law, of the nine, three judges must be from Quebec. By tradition, three more hail from Ontario, two from the West, and one from Atlantic Canada.
Supreme Court judges may sit on the Bench until they reach 75 years of age or until they choose to retire (whichever comes first). Other judges are then nominated to fill the vacancies, a process that has recently occurred.
To identify a pool of qualified candidates for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada, the federal Minister of Justice consulted with the Attorney General of Ontario (where the vacancies currently exist), senior members of the Canadian judiciary as well as prominent legal organizations.
Members of the public were also invited to submit their input with respect to qualified candidates who merit consideration.
The list of qualified candidates was then reviewed by a selection panel composed of five Members of Parliament – including three members from the Government Caucus and one member from each of the recognized Opposition caucuses, as selected by their respective leaders.
The Supreme Court of Canada Appointments Selection Panel, headed by my colleague Candice Hoeppner, was responsible for assessing the candidates and provided a list of six qualified candidates to the Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Justice for their consideration.
In 2006, Prime Minister Harper instituted the inclusion of the Selection Panel and the mandatory appearance before a Parliamentary committee. The committee is intended to enhance the transparency of the appointments process and to promote public understanding of the individual nominee and the role of the Court.
The final choice to fill the two vacancies was made by the Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Justice. Both nominees have top-class legal minds, exceptional work ethic, and irreproachable reputations. I look forward to their inclusion as Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Thanks to our government’s commitment to openness and transparency, the best candidates have been nominated for Canada’s top court.