[JURIST] Maurice Vellacott [official website], a Conservative Party member of the Canadian Parliament [official website, English version], resigned [statement, PDF] Wednesday from his position as chairman of the House of Commons Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Committee [official website] after making comments over the weekend about Canadian judges using their roles to "play God." In an interview with CBC News on Saturday, Vellacott singled out Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin [official profile] of the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] by saying that she admitted that judges are overcome by some sort of "mystical power" when stepping onto the bench. The high court usually refrains from addressing criticism, but a spokesman for McLachlin responded and denied that she had ever made such a remark: "She has always said it is a judge's role to interpret and apply the law
but those choices are always made in accordance with legal precedents and with the laws laid down by parliament and the legislatures."
Vellacott issued a statement [text, PDF] on Monday apologizing for saying McLachlin directly made the comment, but members of Parliament from the opposition Liberal Party [party website] and leaders of the Canadian Bar Association [profession website] called for Vellacott to step down [Liberal statement]. A non-confidence motion was introduced into the twelve-member committee Wednesday with an afternoon vote scheduled that prompted Vellacott's resignation. Earlier this year during the federal election campaign, Conservative leader and now Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper [official website] was criticized by the then-governing Liberals [JURIST report] for speaking out against "activist" judges using the court system to fulfill their own agendas. CTV has more; CBC has additional coverage.