[JURIST] Canada's highest-ranking judges took the unusual step Thursday of responding publicly and negatively to a suggestion by Canadian Justice Minister Vic Toews [official website] that law enforcement representatives be added to the regional panels that screen candidates for federal judgeships, saying that no changes should take place without "meaningful consultation." The Canadian Judicial Council [official website], comprising the chief justices and associate chief justices of Canada's superior courts, issued a statement [text] expressing concern that
these changes, if made, will compromise the independence of the Advisory Committees. The committees have operated since 1988 as independent entities, for the purpose of ensuring that the government has the benefit of obtaining the best possible advice on making appointments to the Bench. Members of the committees are appointed by the judiciary, the Canadian bar, law societies of the provinces, the provincial attorneys general and the Minister of Justice.
The government's intentions were recently announced without any consultation taking place with the judiciary, the law societies or the Canadian Bar Association. This is contrary to a well-established convention followed by all previous governments since the inception of the committees.
Canadian Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin [official profile], who chairs the council, urged Toews to "initiate an immediate process of consultation" with judges, the bar association and other groups.
The provincial advisory committees [backgrounder], which work in secret, currently consist of seven members representing judges, lawyers and the public. Toews told the Winnipeg Free Press [report] earlier this week that he was proposing the change because law enforcement has been "underrepresented" in the judicial nomination process. He also wants to modify the system used by the committees to rate candidates, reducing the options from three – unacceptable, recommended and highly recommended – to either recommended or not recommended. The Globe and Mail has more.