Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the changes are coming to the way Supreme Court Justices are chosen. The application process will be open so any qualified Canadian lawyer or judge who is functionally bilingual and “representative of the diversity of our great country” can apply for the top court.
The Prime Minister made the announcement in an open letter to the Globe and Mail.
Former prime minister Kim Campbell will chair the new independent advisory board that will recommend candidates. The board will review applicants and submit a short list of three to five individuals for consideration. The board’s recommendations are non-binding.
Besides Campbell, the seven-member advisory board includes:
- Camille Cameron, dean of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University and chair of the Canadian Council of Law Deans.
- Jeff Hirsch, president of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and partner in a Winnipeg law firm.
- Stephen Kakfwi, former premier of the Northwest Territories and president of the Dene Nation.
- Lili-Anna Pereša, president and executive director of Centraide of Greater Montreal.
- Richard J. Scott, former chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Appeal, and current counsel, arbitrator and mediator at a Winnipeg law firm.
- Susan Ursel, senior partner with a Toronto firm and chair of the Canadian component of the African Legal Research Team.
The short list will then be reviewed by a list of interested parties, including the chief justice of Canada, provincial and territorial attorneys general, relevant cabinet ministers, opposition justice critics and some House of Commons committees.
Applicants will have to fill out a questionnaire, and some answers from the prime minister’s eventual nominee will be made public.
The prime minister said Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould and Campbell will appear before Parliament to discuss the selection process. Then, a number of MPs and senators from different parties will have a chance to question the eventual nominee before they are officially appointed.
Some observers in Atlantic Canada are concerned that the region could lose the spot on the top court traditionally reserved for their region. Justice Thomas Cromwell, a Nova Scotian and the only justice hailing from the Atlantic provinces, will retire from the bench in September, which leaves a hole in the court’s regional composition.
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Tuesday that there is no guarantee that Cromwell’s seat will go to someone from the region.
Rob Nicholson, the former justice minister under Stephen Harper, and the current Conservative justice critic, said failing to guarantee a spot for Atlantic Canada is a slap in the face to voters in that region that have been kind to Liberal politicians in recent years.