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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Judicial Review Process Should Diminish Politics not Facilitate Politics

Here is an example of shallow understanding of the judicial review and appointment process. This columnist stretches facts beyond credulity for effect but adds nothing to understanding the implication of the Harper Cons recent changes to the judicial review committee make up and processes.

Lawyers are often political activists and even partisans because the people who go into politics make the laws. Little wonder they are interested. To think that donations to a single party by a lawyer should disqualify them from judicial appointment, as implied in this column, is folly in the extreme. To imply that an Executive Director of the Quebec Liberal Party who is said to have testified in the Gomery Commission that “about eight lawyers who campaigned for the Liberal Party in Quebec during the 2000 federal election were awarded judicial appointment" is pointless, trite and sophistic. What does that prove?

Judicial appointments are not “awards.” They are earned and not by virtue of political activities or party donations. The review committee process of citizens, siting judges and lawyers representing the profession are all there to ensure that does not happen. The process, to my knowledge, has been stringent and rigorous for applicants to qualify for a recommendation for appointment to the Prime Minister. It is that office along with the Minster of Justice who makes the appointments in the end result, not the review committees.

The problem with the Harper changes is he has altered the mix of membership and relative powers of the parties in the process. That change is clearly to accomplish Harper’s political ends of ensuring that he gets review recommendations that fit his preconceived view of more social conservatives for appointment to the bench.

By the way, when, in fairness to the representations in the column, when Anne McLellan was Justice Minister she also accepted a well known activist Progressive Conservative and a New Democrat lawyer appointed the the Queen's Bench in Alberta. Both were quality lawyers and have proven to be excellent jurists. It is not always partisan and many examples exist to prove that point, regardless of party.

If the review and recommendation process is apolitical the system has a better chance of working to ensure an independent judiciary. If the system is politicized, as in Harpers review process changes, an independent judiciary will be subject to more suspicion. That is something we do not need.

Thanks to freedom of the press so we can have the chance to read and rebut such opinion as in the Calgary Sun. I wonder if how long a socially conservative bench will tolerate such imprudence, even such as this blog posting, even if made in the name of freedom of expression?

Canadians should not have to be asking themselves such a question. Ever since the Mulroney changes to the judicial appointment review process in 1988 we have not had to wonder. Has Harper changed all that? I wonder!