recognize that some legitimate concerns with the current process have been
raised by members of the legal community and media commentators," Cotler said
during his speech to the Canadian Bar Association last week. "I take these
comments and expressions of concern very seriously. I have, in fact, said that
though I believe the current process is sound in principle, I accept that it
may be improved in practice."
initiatives include the development of a code of conduct, which will provide
direction to all committee members and will govern the manner and content of
code will be made public, as well as the mandate letter and the guidelines that
govern the advisory committee members' participation.
will provide a better and more detailed public appreciation of the way in which
information with respect to the merit criteria is gathered and assessed by the
committee members," he said. "It will also demonstrate the careful steps that
are taken to preserve
which is central to the process."
said the commissioner for federal judicial affairs will publish a current list
of the members of the appointment committees and information about applications
for judicial office — including the total number of applications and the number
who are recommended and highly recommended annually.
remain confident that, at a minimum, an improved public understanding of the
judicial appointments committee processes will do much to dispel the criticism
and innuendo that has been increasingly directed toward judges in the last few
hot topic involving judicial appointments during the justice minister's annual
dialogue with members of the CBA counsel was the new Supreme Court appointment
process, which will have its first run for the replacement of Justice Jack
Major, who retires in December.
announced that advertisements will be placed in Prairie publications in an
effort to encourage people to nominate candidates for the Western
Canada vacancy left my Major's departure.
Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said the appointments process
appears to reflect both merit and preservation of judicial independence.
me, the sole concern should be to appoint individuals who embody the most
valuable judicial qualities of competence, impartiality, empathy, and wisdom,"
she said. "From where I sit, the judiciary in Canada today meets these high
standards. The committee system for vetting candidates the judiciary in each
province has, on the whole, functioned well.
reforms will be welcome if they enable us to improve on this excellent record."
reiterated that merit still remains the primary criteria for selection to the
Supreme Court bench.
to justice and inadequate legal aid were also major themes of the CBA's
said the federal government will try and find room in the next federal budget
for a national civil legal program. While there are no specifics yet, he said
the Department of Justice is currently working on a memorandum to cabinet.
will make a very effective case," said Cotler.
June, the CBA launched a test case to establish a constitutional right to civil
legal aid in British Columbia.
CBA has opted to pursue the litigation route out of a sense of profound
frustration with cuts to legal aid that have resulted in a vacuum in access to
justice for the poor in this province," said past CBA president Susan McGrath.
the courts are frequently asked to consider the right to legal counsel in
individual cases, we believe this is the first systemic challenge to a legal
aid program in Canada,"
lack of civil legal aid and the limited availability of lawyers doing pro bono
work has caused the amount of unrepresented litigants in court to rise at an
alarming pace with serious repercussions for the public, said McLachlin.
would be facile and simplistic of me to attempt to tell you what I think the
problems are," she said at a news conference in Vancouver. "It's not just a money problem.
It's a complex problem that requires more than just a simplistic solution."