Nfld. & Labrador

Ches Crosbie wants push to appoint judges to fill vacant slots, so Innu inquiry can begin

Newfoundland and Labrador's Opposition leader believes four vacancies on the bench of the province’s Supreme Court are delaying justice — and a long-awaited inquiry into Innu children in care.

N.L. Opposition leader says vacancies on the bench are delaying justice

Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie is calling on the premier to use his relationship with Ottawa to move along the process of selecting new Supreme Court judges. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie says Wally Rich's death while in the child-protection system is another tragedy, and he believes four vacancies on the bench of Newfoundland and Labrador's Supreme Court are delaying justice — and a long-awaited inquiry into Innu children in care. 

"It's one of a long sequence of very distressing events involving children in care, and it comes on the heels of years of misfires by the Liberal government in getting an inquiry together to look into and try and resolve these issues," Crosbie said.

Although it's the federal government's responsibility to appoint superior court judges, Crosbie is calling on the premier to use his relationship with Ottawa to move the process along.

"Premier Furey talks, he tells us, to the federal government every day. It's the federal government that makes these particular appointments," Crosbie said.

"So maybe Premier Furey ought to put on his checklist, one of these days, the appointment of those four vacancies so that we can get on with normal business, and people can have their family law cases heard and the backlog can be cleaned up, as well as we could do the inquiry."

In a statement, the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Justice and Public Safety cited delays on the federal side in appointing people to the committee that makes recommendations about who should become a judge.

The province says it provided names for consideration to the feds in February 2019, and those appointments to the committee became effective just two weeks ago.

The department indicated that the federal election and the pandemic may have contributed to delays in establishing that committee, but it hopes the federal justice minister will be in position to fill the judicial vacancies very soon.

Inquiry first promised in 2017

The Innu Nation says the death of Wally Rich, a 15-year-old from Natuashish, highlights the need to kickstart a long-awaited inquiry into Innu children in care.

In June, the office of then-premier Dwight Ball said work was ongoing to find a commissioner to oversee the inquiry.

The government has subsequently indicated that it will collaborate with Innu leaders in making that choice, but has given no public time frame on when the decision will be made.

Wally Rich, an Innu teen from Natuashish, died in May while under the care of the provincial government. (Submitted by Nympha Rich)

The grand chief of the Innu Nation recently told CBC News that a local judge isn't available, but they've agreed to allow a commissioner from out of the province to head the inquiry.

Grand Chief Etienne Rich says names have been forwarded to the provincial government for consideration.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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