PEI

New application process for judges puts focus on diversity

Some lawyers dream of someday becoming a judge — and soon, two lawyers on P.E.I. will get the chance to sit on the other side of the bench.

'The idea is the more voices you have on the bench the better the decision making will be'

Applications are now being sought for two new Supreme Court judges in P.E.I. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Two lawyers on P.E.I. will get the chance to sit on the other side of the bench — and they will face a different application process then the judges who are sitting now.

Two judges — Justice Wayne Cheverie and Chief Justice Jacqueline Matheson are electing to go part time — leaving two openings out of five positions in the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island. 

The process for choosing their replacement is now different than it has been in the past, due to federal government reforms.

Changes bring 'more voices' to the bench

Applicants will now be asked diversity questions about their race, gender, sexual orientation and disability. Committees to help choose judges will also get diversity training and contain members of the public.

People can also now nominate themselves to be considered. 

Two of P.E.I.'s Supreme Court Judges are electing to go part-time. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"This government is specifically trying to ensure that the appointments take into consideration diversity," said P.E.I.'s Chief Justice David Jenkins. 

Nicole O'Byrne, an associate professor with the University of New Brunswick's Faculty of Law, said the hope is also to get a more diverse group of applicants.

"The idea is the more voices you have on the bench the better the decision making will be," she said.

'A more non-partisan process'

O'Byrne said appointments in the past have leaned towards whoever the government is in power. She said the new process will hopefully change that.

"You have a more non-partisan process," she said. "They'll be vetting based on skills and abilities rather than political affiliations." 

Jenkins said a lot of appointments across Canada do go to lawyers who have not been involved in politics, however some are involved in public life and political parties.

He pointed out the Minister of Justice for Canada is duty bound to appoint people based on merit.

"I think it's fair to say that there's a lot of appointments of lawyers who have been involved in politics in the past too," he said.

"It's not really surprising that they would be people who the party in power knows better."

The federal Minister of Justice is expected to make the appointments in early 2017.

About the Author

Laura Meader is a video journalist for CBC P.E.I.

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