Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin welcomes Clément Gascon to Supreme Court
Gascon to replace Justice Marc Nadon, the previous candidate for Quebec vacancy who was deemed ineligible
Canada's top judge is welcoming Prime Minister Stephen Harper's latest appointment to the Supreme Court.
In a statement Wednesday, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin calls Clément Gascon "a distinguished jurist." It praises Gascon's extensive expertise in both commercial and civil law.
Although it's customary for the head of the top court to formally welcome a new judge, McLachlin chose to emphasize his skill in civil law.
Gascon replaces Justice Marc Nadon, who was to fill a vacancy left by Justice Morris Fish last spring. Because Nadon has been on the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa for many years, it was felt his knowledge of Quebec's unique civil law code might be rusty.
A mastery of civil law is a prerequisite for any of the three Quebec judges who are constitutionally guaranteed spots on the highest court.
The government named Nadon last fall to fill Fish's position, but the Supreme Court ultimately found Nadon was not qualified to fill a Quebec seat because he is neither a current Quebec lawyer nor a Quebec judge from a superior or appeals court.
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He also spent 21 years with the Montreal-based law firm Heenan Blaikie, specializing in civil and commercial litigation.
Gascon will start on the job next Monday.
2nd choice well-received
Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée told CBC News she was satisfied with Harper's pick.
The Quebec bar association said in a written statement that Gascon's appointment to the top court was "excellent news" for Canadians.
NDP justice critic Fançoise Boivin said Gascon was "a stellar" appointment with "a great reputation."
Quebec Liberal MP Stéphane Dion said Gascon is "a well-regarded judge."
"I think Canadians will be pleased," Dion said.
Harper's second pick is final and will not be subject to further vetting by Parliament.
"We said we would act quickly to ensure the Supreme Court has a full complement of judges. Both the Liberal Party and the NDP have repeatedly called on us to fill this seat quickly," a spokesman for Justice Minister Peter MacKay said in a written statement.
"In moving to appoint Mr. Justice Gascon, we have done precisely that," Paloma Aguilar said.
The federal government said it consulted with the Quebec government, Quebec's chief justice, the chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court, as well as the Canadian Bar Association and the Quebec bar association before appointing Gascon.
Harper will have to fill another vacancy when Justice Louis Lebel retires on Nov. 30.
Both the New Democrats and Liberals expressed concern around the process surrounding Lebel's replacement given the way the government handled Nadon's appointment and his rejection by the Supreme Court.
In a spat with McLachlin, the Conservatives went as far as to suggest she acted improperly when she tried to contact Harper about potential constitutional problems with the nomination of a Federal Court judge to represent Quebec on the top court.
Boivin added that she had hoped Harper would consider choosing a woman to replace Lebel.
With files from CBC's Leslie MacKinnon