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Irwin Cotler, MP

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Cotler denounces serious regression of Supreme Court appointments process under Conservatives

Posted on November 25, 2014

Ottawa – November 25, 2014 – Irwin Cotler, Liberal MP for Mount Royal and former Justice Minister and Attorney General, today issued the following statement about the upcoming retirement of Supreme Court Justice Louis Lebel:

“Yesterday, in response to my question about the lack of any public or parliamentary process to select the successor to Justice Lebel, Minister of Justice Peter MacKay made the patently incorrect claim that his government ‘put in place the most inclusive, most consultative process that we have ever seen in the history of Canada when it comes to Supreme Court judges.’

In fact, under the Conservatives, there has been a serious regression in the transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness of the Supreme Court appointments process, as well as in the level of public participation.

When I was justice minister, I oversaw a process that included, for the first time, a public protocol setting forth the people to be consulted, as well as an inclusive advisory selection panel composed of MPs, distinguished representatives of the legal community, and eminent public persons. The advisory panel undertook its own independent consultations, the public was invited to participate, the evaluation criteria were made public from the outset, and, prior to the appointments being finalized, I took questions from a parliamentary committee about, among other things, how those criteria were met by the nominees.

By contrast, the process that led last year to the failed appointment of Justice Marc Nadon featured a diminished, MPs-only advisory panel on which the government gave itself a majority; the selection criteria were not publicly disclosed; there was no public engagement; and the Minister did not take questions from the ad hoc parliamentary committee about his choice.

Worse still, the process that led to the appointment of Justice Clément Gascon – an eminent jurist – was an utter regression to the kind of closed, unaccountable, unrepresentative, and enigmatic approach that, ten years ago, all parties – including the Conservatives – agreed must change, and it seems that the Conservative government is now using the same regressive approach to fill the upcoming vacancy. In opposition, as a member of the Justice Committee, Minister MacKay called for greater transparency, and public and parliamentary participation; it is highly regrettable that, a decade later, he does not appear to be taking his own advice.”

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