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Canada MP forced to quit committee chairmanship after tiff with CJ over judges

[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.

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