Atlantic Canadian voice should remain on Supreme Court, Stephen McNeil says

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil praised the federal government on its commitment to transparency and bilingualism, but says Atlantic Canada needs representation in the Supreme Court.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell to retire in September

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said he wants Atlantic Canada representation to continue at the Supreme Court of Canada. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says representation from all parts of the country, including Atlantic Canada, should still be a priority when appointing new Supreme Court justices.

"We would have liked to have seen the national government recognize that all regions of the country should be represented on this court, and we would have liked to have seen them ensure someone from Atlantic Canada would have remained a member of that court," Stephen McNeil told reporters Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the application process to become a Supreme Court justice will be open so that any qualified bilingual Canadian lawyer or judge can apply.

A jurist spot will open when Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell retires in September.

During an interview with CBC's Power & Politics, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said regional representation will be kept in mind during the selection process.

'We're looking to ensure that the bench of the Supreme Court reflects the diversity and the differences that exist in the country,' says Jody Wilson-Raybould. 12:57

"We are opening up the appointment process to people who aren't just specifically from Atlantic Canada, but there will be candidates from Atlantic Canada on the short list that the advisory board puts forward," she said.

Wilson-Raybould said she spoke to the attorneys general from across Atlantic Canada and asked them to encourage potential qualified candidates to put their name forward for selection.

Bilingualism commitment praised

McNeil praised the federal government for its commitment to ensuring the next Supreme Court justice is functionally bilingual. 

"In Nova Scotia we have a large and distinct Acadian community that we want to make sure has a voice represented in the Supreme Court," said the premier.

That sentiment was echoed by acting provincial Justice Minister Michel Samson in a statement his department sent to CBC News Tuesday evening.

"As an Acadian, I also appreciate the commitment to bilingualism, but we can't lose sight of the importance of having representation from all parts of the country on the bench of the high court," said Samson.

With files from Sherri Borden Colley and CBC's Power & Politics