Marc Nadon's failed journey to the Supreme Court
The failed process of naming Nadon to the highest court in the land started over a year ago
The failed process of naming Federal Court Justice Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court started over a year ago when one of the top court's nine judges announced his retirement.
Here's a timeline about how the government selected Nadon, and the points along the way when the process started to go wrong, ending with Nadon never making it to the top court's bench and returning to his old job as a judge for the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa.
April 22, 2013 – Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin meets with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to formally announce the pending retirement of Justice Morris Fish, effective Aug. 31, and to discuss the needs of the court.
May 27, 2013 – The Attorney General of Quebec is consulted by the government about the vacancy.
June 11, 2013 – Government announces the process to choose Fish's replacement, including consultations between the justice minister, the prime minister, the chief justice of Canada and others to determine a list of qualified candidates. List to be vetted by a selection panel of five MPs (three Conservatives, one NDP, one Liberal) who confidentially consult with the chief justice and others.
July 29, 2013 – McLachlin meets with the MP selection panel at its invitation to discuss the proposed list of candidates.
July 31, 2013 – McLachlin confidentially calls the justice minister and the prime minister's chief of staff, Ray Novak. Her office later states the call was "to flag a potential issue regarding the eligibility of a judge of the federal courts to fill a Quebec seat on the Supreme Court."
August 2013 – Sometime in August, according to an answer to an order paper question in the House of Commons, the government seeks the advice from retired Supreme Court justice Louise Charron about appointing a Federal Court judge to represent Quebec. She is paid $4,235.
Aug. 17, 2013 – Justice Minister Peter MacKay, in an interview with the National Post, states, "There are provisions right now that could be interpreted as excluding federal judges from Supreme Court appointments."
September 2013 – Sometime in September the government seeks the advice of retired Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie and constitutional lawyer and professor Peter Hogg. They are paid $6,605 and $1,045.25 respectively.
Sept. 9, 2013 – Binnie privately delivers an opinion commissioned by the government stating he believes Marc Nadon, a Federal Court of Appeal judge from Quebec, is eligible to sit on the Supreme Court. Charron and Hogg give opinions stating they agree with Binnie's conclusions.
Sept. 30, 2013 – Harper announces the nomination of Justice Nadon and says an ad hoc parliamentary committee of MPs would meet in 48 hours to pose questions to the nominee.
Oct. 2, 2013 – Ad hoc parliamentary committee questions Nadon following an opening address by MacKay, who states the nomination followed consultations with McLachlin, among others. MacKay also reveals the government has three expert opinions supporting the legality of the nomination: Binnie's, Charron's and Hogg's.
Oct. 7, 2013 – Nadon sworn in as member of the Supreme Court of Canada. Toronto constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati applies to the Federal Court of Canada to challenge Nadon's appointment the same day.
Oct. 17, 2013 – Quebec government announces it will also contest Nadon's appointment.
Oct. 22, 2013 – A Conservative omnibus budget bill includes changes to appointment qualification language for judges in the Supreme Court Act. Government sends reference to Supreme Court regarding constitutionality of Nadon's appointment and its Supreme Court Act change.
March 21, 2014 – Supreme Court finds 6-1 that Nadon's appointment is contrary to Quebec-specific provisions in Supreme Court Act; finds changes to "composition of the Supreme Court" require unanimous constitutional amendment.
May 1, 2014 – National Post reports Conservative sources claiming McLachlin lobbied against Nadon's appointment.
May 1, 2014 – Supreme Court's executive counsel issues statement explaining McLachlin was consulted, flagged the eligibility question, but "did not express any views on the merits of the issue."
May 1, 2014 – The Prime Minister's Office then issues statement saying McLachlin "initiated" contact with the justice minister and PMO, and that MacKay advised Harper that "taking a phone call from the chief justice would be inadvisable and inappropriate. The prime minister agreed and did not take her call," said PMO spokesman Jason MacDonald.
May 2, 2014 – MacDonald sends email to the CBC's Terry Milewski saying, "The request [from McLachlin's office] for a meeting or a call with the Prime Minister came during the selection process."
May 2, 2014 – McLachlin's office issues statement with timeline showing consultation took place well before Nadon's nomination: "Given the potential impact on the court, I wished to ensure that the government was aware of the eligibility issue … It is customary for chief justices to be consulted during the appointment process and there is nothing inappropriate in raising a potential issue affecting a future appointment."
May 6, 2014 – NDP Leader Tom Mulcair asks Harper in the House of Commons to apologize to McLachlin "for his unprecedented and inexplicable attack on one of our most respected democratic institutions." The prime minister declines, responding: "It's because of our respect for the independence of the judiciary that the prime minister does not discuss an issue that might wind up before the court."
May 8, 2014 – MacKay says in the House of Commons he has taken the step of speaking with the attorney general of Quebec about the Supreme Court vacancy. He says the government will be naming someone to fill the Quebec slot "quite soon."
With files from Leslie MacKinnon