Justice minister disputes claim N.L. can't fill Supreme Court vacancy

Newfoundland and Labrador's justice minister says the province has bilingual judges who should be considered for the Supreme Court of Canada.
Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Andrew Parsons says the province has bilingual candidates who can fill an upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's justice minister says the province has bilingual judges who should be considered for the Supreme Court of Canada.

Andrew Parsons took aim Thursday at a Globe and Mail article that said Newfoundland and Labrador would be passed over for the court's next vacancy, which will come open Sept. 1 with the retirement of Justice Thomas Cromwell of Nova Scotia.

'I think they can compete with anybody'

The article quotes unnamed sources that say the committee drawing up a short list of replacements didn't find anyone from Newfoundland and Labrador who meets the court's requirements.

Not so, says Parsons.

"I disagree with the premise there," Parsons told CBC. "I do think, No. 1, when you look at the ability of our jurists, our members of the bench, I think it is there, obviously. I think they can compete with anybody in Canada."

Parsons said there are bilingual candidates in the province.

"I've been told by members of the bench and other individuals that we do have people that have that ability, so for them to say that there's no one here, I don't think the individual that wrote the article actually put the time in to find out if it was true or not."

Lawyer and former provincial Justice Minister Jerome Kennedy says bilingualism should not be the main consideration for Supreme Court justices. (CBC)

Earlier this week, former Justice Minister Jerome Kennedy said lack of French shouldn't be a deal breaker for a Supreme Court appointment.

"There can be instantaneous translation. There are the opportunities for the litigants to present in both English and French," he said on Wednesday. "It should be a consideration, but not the only, or major consideration."

Candidates can self-nominate

Parsons also said the notion there's no one in the province qualified for the position is at odds with the federal government's allowing people to self-nominate.

"When you're putting it out there that you're going to allow self-nomination, but for an article to come out and say, 'Well, it's closed. There's no one here,' obviously it's one or the other," he said.

With files from Glenn Payette.