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Canada CJ speaks out against changing high court appointment process

[JURIST] Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin [official profile] said Friday in response to suggestions that the Canadian Parliament [official website] should be given a more active role in the high court appointment process that it should remain the same. McLachlin said in an Ottawa speech that allowing Parliament greater influence over senior court appointments could reduce Canadians’ confidence that judicial opinions are not swayed by politics. Currently high court appointments are made by the Canadian prime minister after a legal and political consultation process [Mapleleafweb backgrounder]. Conservative Party prime minister-designate Stephen Harper [party profile] suggested in the recent federal election campaign that his government will be constrained by judges appointed by prime ministers from the outgoing Liberal Party and is hoping that the courts will become more conservative under his tenure. Harper, who takes office on Monday, already has a Supreme Court vacancy to fill with the retirement of Justice John Major [official profile]. Prime Minister Paul Martin [official website] accused Harper late in the election campaign of planning to politicize [JURIST report] the court and pack it with social conservatives. Tory MPs would like to give Parliament the power to question and confirm judicial nominees, similar to the system in the US, but critics fear that public hearings will politicize the high court and discourage qualified candidates who do not want involvement in public confirmation battles. The Toronto Globe and Mail has more.

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