by Errol Mendes
Originally published: August 3, 2016
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is continuing the push to transform how members of Canada’s key institutions are appointed, unveiling a new process to select Supreme Court justices. The move he announced Tuesday is similar to the dramatic steps to make the Senate and the appointment of senators less partisan and more transparent by establishing an independent body to propose recommendations.
In a similar fashion, Mr. Trudeau announced that a seven-member advisory board, led by former prime minister Kim Campbell, will recommend candidates to replace retiring top court judges. This process must start immediately, given that Justice Thomas Cromwell retires on Sept. 1. While the new process will likely focus on candidates from Atlantic Canada, it will (to the surprise of many, including this writer) invite nominations from across the country. This is likely to be controversial, especially in Nova Scotia, Justice Cromwell’s home province.
It is clear that the focus of the new system is to make the most important appointments in our constitutional democracy seem less than subject to the whims of prime ministers (whatever their party) and their political colleagues, a practice that Mr. Trudeau described as a “secretive backroom process.” No doubt one such process that was top of mind was the 2013 proposed appointment of Justice Marc Nadon, which resulted in a Supreme Court ruling that he was not qualified to join the court as a justice from Quebec.