Justice Mahmud Jamal becomes first person of color to sit on Canada Supreme Court
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Justice Mahmud Jamal becomes first person of color to sit on Canada Supreme Court

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named the Honorable Mahmud Jamal to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) on Thursday. Jamal will replace the retiring Justice Rosalie Abella, and becomes the first person of color to sit on Canada’s highest court.

Preceding Jamal’s appointment, the Liberal government formed a non-partisan advisory board led by former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell. The council provided three to five names, including Jamal’s, to Trudeau for selection. The board’s recommendations are non-binding; the list was then reviewed by interested parties including the Chief Justice, provincial and territorial Attorneys-General, Cabinet Ministers, and opposition justice critics.

The selection process follows the guidelines of the Supreme Court Act of 1985. Under section 5, “[any] person may be appointed a judge who has been a judge of a superior court of a province or a barrister … of at least ten years of standing.”

Outside of the requirement that three justices must be from Quebéc (section 6 of the SCA), there are no regional requirements for the selection process. However, the court has traditionally filled the remaining six seats with three justices from Ontario, two from the four western provinces, and one from the Atlantic provinces.

In a press release, Trudeau stated the he “know[s] Jamal, with his exceptional legal and academic experience and dedication to serving others, will be a valuable asset to our country’s highest court.”

Applicants answered a questionnaire as part of the assessment process. Jamal’s questionnaire has been made public. It speaks to his long career as a litigator before his appointment to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2019. He appeared before the Supreme Court 35 times on civil, constitutional, criminal, and regulatory issues. Jamal previously taught constitutional law at McGill University in Montreal, Quebéc, and administrative law at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.