Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin favours gender parity on top court

Canada's Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin says she personally favours gender parity on the country's top court but stops short of criticizing the prime minister's recent nomination, in an exclusive interview with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge.

Peter Mansbridge interviews Beverley McLachlin

8 years ago
Canada's Chief Justice favours gender equity on high court 1:20

Canada's chief justice says she personally favours gender parity on the country's top court, in an exclusive interview with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge

Beverley McLachlin's comments come a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's choice for the next Supreme Court judge raised the ire of critics worried about the lack of gender equity on the country's top court.

Harper nominated Justice Marc Nadon to fill one of three Quebec-designated seats. Nadon is expected to be confirmed Wednesday, which will bring the number of men sitting on the high bench to six, compared with three women.

Asked by Mansbridge whether she had any concerns about the gender balance following the prime minister's nomination, McLachlin said she favours gender parity but stopped short of criticizing Harper's choice.

"No, I think we have very strong forceful women and the three of us seem to hold our own pretty well," McLachlin said.

Justice Andromache Karakatsanis and Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella are the other two female judges on the top court.

McLachlin was quick to point out that the Supreme Court ought to reflect the graduation rate of law students across the country.

"I think the court should be representative of society, and of course, one hopes that women will — they're now taking up more than 50 per cent of the law school places, they're practising broadly," McLachlin said.

"We should have a number of women on the court, and we do. I'm glad we have them. I think it adds to our credibility and insights that we bring to different problems.

"I'm all in favour of gender parity."

Asked about her "diplomatic answer," McLachlin said the final choice is not hers.

"Well, you know the choice of a justice to this court, constitutionally is the prime minister's, and I respect that choice," McLachlin said.

In 2012, 1,866 candidates in Ontario were called to the bar. Fifty-one per cent of those were women, according to the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Harper will have another opportunity to address the gender gap next year when Justice Louis LeBel leaves the bench after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also expressed concern about the lack of gender parity on the Supreme Court following Harper's announcement.

"I think he [Harper] has to be more sensitive to the issue of gender equity," Mulcair told reporters gathered on Parliament Hill on Monday.

The full interview with Canada's Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin will be seen on an upcoming broadcast of Mansbridge One on One on CBC Television and CBC News Network.


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