Newfoundlander Malcolm Rowe's appointment to Supreme Court now official

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally announced the appointment of Newfoundlander Malcolm Rowe to the top court Friday after Rowe successfully cleared the last hurdle of his nomination — a grilling by MPs and senators.

New justice will be formally sworn-in at a later date

Justice Malcolm Rowe takes part in a question-and-answer session with members of the Commons justice committee Tuesday October 25, 2016. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally appointed Rowe to the top court Friday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally announced the appointment of Newfoundlander Malcolm Rowe to the top court Friday after Rowe successfully cleared the last hurdle of his nomination — a grilling by MPs and senators.

Rowe's appointment is effective immediately and he will be formally sworn in as a puisne justice — or "junior" justice — at a later date. Rowe replaces Thomas Cromwell, a Nova Scotian, who opted to retire early last month.

Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin praised Rowe's appointment in a statement Friday. "The court will benefit greatly from his long experience as a judge, lawyer and public servant," she said.

The appointment is historic in that Rowe will be the first justice from Newfoundland and Labrador to take a seat on the top court.

One of the first cases to land on the docket after Rowe's appointment will be the bail hearing of Dennis Oland, the New Brunswick man who was convicted of second-degree murder. (A new trial was ordered with week.)

Oland's lawyers sought leave to the country's highest court after the New Brunswick Court of Appeal twice refused to release Oland on bail pending his murder conviction appeal. The case could be precedent setting.

Atlantic Canada keeps its seat

Rowe applied to be a Supreme Court justice under the prime minister's new appointment process, which was pitched as more open and transparent than the one used to make past appointments.

As part of that new process, Rowe had to make an appearance before a joint panel of members of the House and Senate justice committees, to face questions about his legal background and his qualifications. He faced tough questions about his fluency in French, his support for "rape shield" laws and his views on Aboriginal and treaty rights.

His application for the job was also made public online.

"The appointment of this remarkable legal expert is the culmination of a new more open, non-partisan selection process which is yet another example of democracy in action," the prime minister said in a statement Friday.

"I wish Justice Rowe every success in the new job and look forward to seeing his rulings on important issues affecting Canadians."

There was concern from many in Atlantic Canada that the new nationwide search process would end the longstanding convention of designating at least one seat on the bench to a qualified candidate from the region.

The Conservatives seized on the issue, with MP Lisa Raitt, a native of Cape Breton, accusing Trudeau of treating her native region like a "backwater" by failing to guarantee it a seat on the high court.

"Once again we're getting the short end of the stick down in this part of the world and it just drives me around the bend. People assume we're not good enough," she said.

Nova Scotia Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil, and many of the 32 Liberal MPs from the region, also voiced support for an Atlantic Canadian appointee, despite Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's initial refusal to guarantee the region a seat.