Justice Thomas Cromwell is now officially the newest judge of the Supreme Court of Canada.
He replaces Justice Michel Bastarache who retired at the end of the spring term earlier this year. Cromwell returns to the Supreme Court where he was executive legal officer from 1992 to 1995.
Forgoing his promise of public hearings on the appointment of any new justices to the top court, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement elevating the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal judge to the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court must have its full complement of nine judges in order to execute its vital constitutional mandate effectively,” said Harper. “Not only is Justice Cromwell one of Canada’s most respected jurists, his appointment will also restore regional balance to the court which now, once again, has an Atlantic Canadian representative.”
In 2006, Harper put in place the new selection process for Supreme Court judges that in included public hearings before an all-party parliamentary committee.
Cromwell’s nomination was first announced in September, prior to the last federal election.
But his appointment was put on hold pending the public hearings - a process Harper had promised to follow for all his nominees to the Supreme Court. The striking of the committee was at first delayed by the election and then again when the PM suspended Parliament until the new year to avert a confidence vote that threatened to topple his minority Conservative government.
Harper said he had personally consulted with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff prior to making Cromwell’s appointment official.
In a statement, Harper cited, “the urgency of filling the eight-month vacancy on the Supreme Court as the source of this exception.” He restated his commitment to returning to a formal mechanism through which Parliament can scrutinize future Supreme Court nominees.
“The Supreme Court rightly exists above partisan politics and Canadians of all political persuasions will benefit from its return to a full complement of judges,” said Harper.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin welcomed Cromwell’s appointment.
“Justice Cromwell is a judge of the highest ability, integrity and intellect,” she said. “In addition to his vast experience on the bench, he also brings a profound understanding of the role and the challenges of the Supreme Court. I look forward to the contribution of this distinguished jurist to the work of the court.”
Cromwell, 56, from Kingston, Ont., initially studied music but got his law degree in Ontario in 1976. He is called to the bar in Ontario and Nova Scotia. He practised and taught law, including two stints at the Dalhousie Law School in Halifax.
The date for the swearing in of Cromwell, who sat as a judge of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal since 1997, has not been set.
In other announcements Monday, Harper also appointed 18 new senators to the upper chamber including Halifax lawyer Fred Dickson, one of Canada's foremost legal experts on offshore resource development.