Canadians should not be worried about the judicial system undermining democracy, says the president of the Canadian Bar Association, in response to recent comments by Conservative parliamentarians criticizing and questioning the judiciary.

“The courts are essential and integral to a democracy. They play a very important role in the citizens’ ability to see that justice is done, to protect their rights and to see that laws are adopted and applied properly, Fred Headon told CBC Radio’s The House in an interview.

Courts accused of 'end run'

A week ago, Conservative MP Dan Albas said some groups are now using courts to do an “end-run” around the democratic process. Albas suggested citizens are losing if “unelected judges” can overturn policy decisions made by the government.

Responding to those comments, Headon said Canadian judges are acting with “a fair degree of deference to Parliament” and that the scope given to the courts is defined by law.

Heaton argues that parliamentarians have plenty of ways of pushing back.

“You can advise or ask the government to appeal that decision, and if that doesn’t lead to a satisfactory outcome for you, as a parliamentarian, can actually adopt another law,” said Headon.

Undermining system

A larger concern for Headon is the possibility that this questioning of judges and courts will ultimately undermine Canadians’ confidence in the court system.

“In our reactions we need to recall the role that they [judges] play and be respectful of it. It could be very harmful if we lose sight of that,” said Headon.