Nfld. & Labrador

Rowe appointment to Supreme Court 'great day': N.L. legal community reacts

Newfoundland and Labrador's justice minister says the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Malcolm Rowe is a "great day for the province."

First Supreme Court appointment from N.L. 'an excellent jurist with tremendous background': Parsons

Malcolm Rowe moves from the highest court in Newfoundland and Labrador to the Supreme Court of Canada. (CBC)

Members of the Newfoundland and Labrador legal community Monday applauded Justice Malcolm Rowe's nomination to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Andrew Parsons says Rowe's nomination is a "great day for the province."

"Obviously I'm extremely thrilled at this historic moment in our province's history, the first justice that we've appointed to our country's highest court is just fantastic to hear," Parsons told CBC's On the Go.

"I'm just so thrilled for Justice Rowe. He's certainly deserving, an excellent jurist with tremendous background and I think he's going to serve our province well on the country's highest court, and I think he's going to serve the entire country well."

St. John's defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan called it great news.

St. John's defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan said the nomination of Justice Malcolm Rowe is great news for Newfoundland and Labrador. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

"It's about time," she said. "Obviously, you want to have judges who represent the entire country, and we've never yet had a judge from Newfoundland and Labrador, and I think that's important for all areas of the country, but particularly where we haven't had one yet. It's groundbreaking. History is being made."

Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association lawyer Tommy Williams called the nomination "outstanding," adding he was surprised by the news.

"There was a fair bit of debate as to whether or not there was going to be substantial changes to the judicial appointments process at the Supreme Court," said Williams, who is former premier Danny Williams' brother.

"There was talk about having to have a justice who was fluently bilingual. Then there was some talk as to whether or not there was going to be any kind of consideration for regionalism."

Lawyer Tommy Williams called Rowe's nomination "outstanding." (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Background affects critical thinking

Parsons said he understands why, before Rowe was named, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wouldn't commit to adhering to the convention of replacing an outgoing Atlantic Canadian judge with one from the same region.

"They were trying to put in something that's accountable and transparent. We certainly get that," he said. "But we were confident the entire time that the members of our bar, the members of our court, would get consideration and were certainly up to the bill."

Parsons called the nomination foremost a great day for Rowe, but also one for the province.

"It shows that our judicial system is one to be looked on proudly in this province."

Former premier Brian Tobin said Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are excited to have someone from the province named to such a "vitally important" position.

"I think there are a lot of big smiles around the supper tables of Newfoundland tonight," he said, praising Rowe's "incredible" work ethic and breadth of experience. Rowe was clerk of the privy council when Tobin was premier.

"I think there are a lot of big smiles around the supper tables of Newfoundland tonight," says Brian Tobin. (CBC)

"I think it's important to have the perspective and the voice and the experience of every part of Canada, over time, reflected in our top court. But I think that's secondary to having somebody who's absolutely qualified to be there, who has the capacity to serve all of Canada, not just Atlantic Canada or just Newfoundland."

Asked why, if a Supreme Court justice's job is to follow the law, it matters where in Canada a judge comes, Parsons said he subscribes to the theory of "legal realism":

"These are human women and men up there and their background does play a role in their critical thinking and the way that they look at things," he said.

"At the end of the day they are going to make their decisions based on the law but sometimes its how you interpret, how you analyze where you've been and what you've done in life will help guide that."

With files from On the Go and Glenn Payette