Nfld. & Labrador

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons has mixed emotions for new Supreme Court justice selection process

The Minister of Justice says he's pleased with the transparency of the new process, but worries about this province's representation in the country's highest court.
MHA Andrew Parsons says he is happy to see the new Supreme Court justice selection process be more transparent, but is disappointed Atlantic Canada may no longer be represented on the bench. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Minister of Justice and Public Safety Andrew Parsons has mixed feelings about the process for selecting future Supreme Court of Canada justices, a move announced Tuesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The new system includes the appointment of an independent advisory board to recommend candidates and will allow any qualified Canadian lawyer or judge to apply, so long as they are functionally bilingual and represent diversity.

This means Atlantic Canada could lose its secured spot on the Supreme Court once Justice Thomas Cromwell, from Nova Scotia, retires in September.

"I'm obviously happy to see an independent process being brought into play here. We know that that's been an issue in the past, especially under the previous federal administration, Mr. Harper's government," Parsons said.

"So Prime Minister Trudeau is committed to doing a new process here."

'A bit disappointed'

While Parsons is pleased to see transparency, he isn't happy Atlantic Canada may not have representation.

"At the same time, obviously I'm a bit disappointed... the wiping out of the regional side, I think it was there for a reason," Parsons said.

Brenda Grimes, executive director of The Newfoundland and Labrador Law Society, said the society is encouraged by the process being "more open and inclusive." 

The new selection process also requires successful candidates to be functionally bilingual. A recent report suggested no judge in Newfoundland and Labrador fulfilled that requirement.

As a member of the Federation of Law Societies, Grimes said her organization will participate in the new selection process, regardless of language requirements.

"We take no position on the announcement that Supreme Court of Canada justices must be bilingual, as it is the prerogative of the federal government to set the criteria for appointment and there are an ever-increasing number of Newfoundland and Labrador justices and lawyers that are bilingual," she said in a statement to CBC, though she declined an interview.

Parsons agreed that many lawyers from Newfoundland and Labrador are qualified and capable of being on the Supreme Court, no matter what the selection process entails.

"I look forward to the members of our bench and our bar having the opportunity to be considered... they have that legal background and the ability to take all the criteria necessary to serve at that highest level," he said.