An Act to amend the Judges Act

Sponsor

David Lametti  Liberal

Status

In committee (House), as of Oct. 31, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-9.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Judges Act to replace the process through which the conduct of federally appointed judges is reviewed by the Canadian Judicial Council. It establishes a new process for reviewing allegations of misconduct that are not serious enough to warrant a judge’s removal from office and makes changes to the process by which recommendations regarding removal from office can be made to the Minister of Justice. As with the provisions it replaces, this new process also applies to persons, other than judges, who are appointed under an Act of Parliament to hold office during good behaviour.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Oct. 31, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Judges Act
Oct. 26, 2022 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Judges Act

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

moved that Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Judges Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:30 a.m.
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Scarborough—Rouge Park Ontario

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to Bill C-9, an act to amend the Judges Act. I want to acknowledge that I am speaking today on the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin people.

As lawmakers, it is our cherished responsibility to see to the good stewardship of our justice system. It is also our responsibility to ensure that traditional independence, a principle that lies at the heart of that system, is safeguarded and preserved. These responsibilities go hand in hand. An independent court system, in which every Canadian has confidence that their rights will be protected and that the laws of our country will be enforced with honour and integrity, is the lifeblood of our constitutional democracy. Public confidence in the courts is essential to public confidence in the rule of law, and public confidence depends not only on the status and strength of our courts as institutions but on the integrity of the judges who occupy them.

I rise today to address a matter that engages this responsibility directly: the reform of Canada's system for investigating allegations of misconduct against federally appointed judges. It is tempting to take these observations for granted, but the reality is that they are the product of sustained vigilance and effort. Our institutions are strong because we take care to respect and nourish them. Our judiciary is strong because its members strive continuously to better serve Canadians and hold themselves to the most stringent standards of integrity, impartiality and professionalism.

Canada's superior court judiciary, which includes the judges of the Federal Court and Supreme Court of Canada as well the judges of all provincial and territorial superior courts, enjoys an unparalleled reputation for excellence. Allegations of misconduct against members of the federal judiciary are rare, and allegations so serious that removal from judicial office may be warranted are rarer still. Nevertheless, an effective process for reviewing those few allegations that arise constitutes an integral part of our justice system and helps to secure a cornerstore of the rule of law, which is public confidence in the integrity of justice.

According to our constitutional separation of powers, the judiciary itself must play a leading role in safeguarding the integrity of its members. Since 1971, the Judges Act has empowered its members, the chief justices and associate chief justices of Canada's superior courts, acting through the Canadian Judicial Council, or CJC, to receive and investigate complaints regarding the conduct of superior court judges and to report their findings and recommendations to the Minister of Justice. Only then does it fall to the minister to decide whether to seek removal of a judge. It is a decision that requires ratification by Parliament and an address to the Governor General under section 99(1) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

This power is tempered by the constitutional principle of judicial independence, and the security of tenure it affords to every superior court judge in the absence of their proven incapacity or misconduct.

Recently, the gap between these broader changes and the conduct process prescribed under the Judges Act has grown acute, bringing into jeopardy the public confidence that this process is meant to secure. Allowing the judiciary to regulate the conduct of their own members in this manner is entirely appropriate. It rightly safeguards the courts against interference by the political branches, ensuring that judges can protect the Constitution and the rights of Canadians without fear of reprisal.

While Canadians can thus have confidence in judicial leadership and control over investigations into judicial conduct, the legislative framework that enables this leadership has remained unchanged since 1971. This is despite vast changes to the legal and social landscapes in which the framework must operate.

The most serious judicial conduct cases, and those that attract the greatest public attention through the inquiry committee process, are notoriously long and costly, and are beset with parallel court challenges that take years to resolve. One of these is the length and cost of judicial conduct proceedings. As federal administrative tribunals, inquiry committees constituted by the CJC are reviewable first in the Federal Court, then by the Federal Court of Appeal and then possibly the Supreme Court of Canada.

This gives a judge who is subject to the process an opportunity to initiate as many as three stages of judicial review. This was seen recently in the case of former Justice Girouard.

Because the Judges Act lacks alternatives to full-scale divisional inquiries, all cases that raise valid concerns regardless of their gravity are forced into a procedurally complex, public and adversarial inquiry mechanism. At the conclusion of that mechanism, rather than allowing an inquiry committee to report directly to the minister, the Judges Act requires that a report and recommendation be submitted by the CJC as a whole.

The fact that judicial independence warrants the provision of publicly funded counsel to a judge has meant that in some cases, lawyers have collected millions of dollars in fees for launching exhaustive legal challenges that are ultimately proven to be without merit. The public is rightly outraged by this lack of efficiency and accountability in a process carried out in its name. The situation demands correction.

In other words, a body of at least 17 chief justices and associate chief justices from across Canada who have not had any direct involvement in the scrutiny of a given case must review the work of an inquiry committee and decide whether or not to recommend a judge's removal to the minister. This process is burdensome, inefficient and costly. Rather than having confidence that concerns about judicial conduct will receive a fair and effective resolution, Canadians see this process as duplicating features of procedural complexity and the adversarial model that can be so alienating in the justice system at large.

Another shortcoming of the current process is that the Judges Act empowers the CJC only to recommend for or against the removal of a judge. There are no lesser sanctions available. As a result, instances of misconduct may fail to be sanctioned because they do not warrant removal. There is also a risk that judges may be exposed to full-scale inquiry proceedings and to the stigma of having their removal publicly considered for conduct that is more sensibly addressed by alternative procedures and lesser sanctions.

The bill before us would thus comprehensively reform and modernize the judicial conduct process while honouring a fundamental commitment to fairness, independence and procedural rigour. Allow me to offer a brief summary emphasizing the objectives that the bill is intended to achieve.

First and foremost, the bill would streamline the judicial conduct process. It would replace the current availability of judicial review with an efficient internal appeal mechanism for judges whose conduct has been found lacking by a hearing or a review panel. In other words, rather than allowing judges to step outside the process and launch multiple court challenges that can interrupt and delay proceedings for years, the reformed process would include its own internal system of review to ensure the fairness and integrity of any findings made against a judge.

At the conclusion of the hearings process and before the report on removal is issued to the minister, both the judge whose conduct is being examined and the lawyer responsible for presenting the case against them would be entitled to appeal the outcome to an appeal panel. Rather than making CJC hearings subject to external review by multiple levels of court with the resulting costs and delays, the new process would include a fair, efficient and coherent appeal mechanism internal to the process itself.

A five-judge appeal panel would hold public hearings akin to those of an appellate court and have all the powers it needs to effectively address any shortcomings in the hearing panel's process. Once it has reached a decision, the only remaining recourse available to the judge and to presenting counsel would be to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Entrusting process oversight to the Supreme Court would reinforce public confidence and avoid lengthy judicial review proceedings through several levels of court.

These steps on appeal would be governed by strict deadlines, and any outcomes reached would form part of the report and the recommendations ultimately made to the Minister of Justice. In addition to giving confidence in the integrity of judicial conduct proceedings, these reforms are expected to reduce the length of proceedings by a matter of years.

This would avoid situations we have seen in the past where repeated appeals to the Federal Court have drawn the process out to obscene lengths.

The new process would also provide opportunities for early resolution of conduct complaints, avoiding the need in many instances to resort to adversarial public hearings. Rather than treating all cases as though they might warrant judicial removal, the CJC would be empowered to impose alternate remedies that were proportionate to the conduct at issue and better tailored to the public interest. The public at large would be better represented in these proceedings with the bill codifying a place for public representatives in the review of complaint processes.

For example, it may require a judge to take a continuing education course or apologize for the harm caused by their misconduct.

As far as conduct that warrants judicial removal is concerned, the bill requires that robust public hearings be held. The bill includes a role that will allow the presenting counsel to act as a public prosecutor in presenting a case against a judge. What is more, the judge will have ample opportunity to provide responses and present a defence with the assistance of their own lawyer.

If the hearing panel recommends the judge's removal, those recommendations will be sent to the Minister of Justice subject only to the disposition of the appeal. It will not be necessary for the entire Canadian Judicial Council to take part in the process.

These steps alone would render the judicial conduct process more flexible, timely and efficient without compromising fairness or investigative rigour. In doing so, it would also render the process less costly, more accessible and more accountable to Canadians.

Beyond mere process reforms, the bill would introduce a stable funding mechanism to support the CJC's role in investigating judicial conduct and one appropriate to the constitutionally imperative nature of this duty. It would also add safeguards requiring that the responsible officials establish guidelines consistent with government-wide standards for the administration of public funds, that the administration of those funds be subject to regular audits, and that the results of those audits be made available in public reports. This combination of financial accountability and transparency is critical in ensuring public confidence in the judicial conduct process, and it is overdue.

The provisions established in the appropriation clearly limit the categories of expenses it captures to those required to hold public hearings. Moreover, these would be subject to regulations made by the Governor in Council. Planned regulations include limiting how much lawyers involved in the process can bill, and limiting judges who are subject to proceedings to one principal lawyer. The bill also would require that the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs make guidelines affixing or providing for the determination of any fees, allowances and expenses that may be reimbursed and that are not specifically addressed by the regulations. These guidelines must be consistent with any Treasury Board directives pertaining to similar costs, and any difference must be publicly justified.

Finally, the bill would require that a mandatory independent review be completed every five years into all costs paid through the statutory appropriation. The independent reviewer would report to the Minister of Justice, the Commissioner and the chair of the CJC. The report would assess the efficacy of all applicable policies establishing financial controls and would be made public. Taken together, these measures would bring a new level of fiscal accountability to judicial conduct costs, while replacing the cumbersome and ad hoc funding approach currently in place.

All of these reforms were informed by an extensive process of public consultation. In addition to hearing from Canadians, academic experts and members of the legal profession, the government has had a sustained engagement with two judicial organizations in particular: the CJC and the Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association.

The government is deeply grateful for the commitment of these organizations to supporting reform and sharing their perspectives and expertise in a spirit of respectful collaboration with officials from the Department of Justice Canada. I know that passage of these reforms is of the highest priority to judicial leaders, and the government is committed to answering their rightful requests for legislation that would support them in fulfilling their critical role.

I will conclude simply by recommending to my colleagues that we seize the opportunity to renew an institution that is vital to the trust that Canadians place in their justice system. I am convinced that Canada has the strongest justice system in the world, in no small part because we have the most exceptional and committed judiciary in the world. That reality is not inevitable, but it is the result of our sustained commitment and effort to keeping our institutions healthy and keeping our judiciary independent and strong.

Let us renew these commitments again with the passage of this legislation. I look forward to our deliberation and debate.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the parliamentary secretary's speech, but I am concerned with the timing. This bill has sat dormant for so long and is now being brought forward just before we go into summer. It brings me to another issue. We cannot talk about the judicial process or the justice system without speaking about victims and the unique place they have. They are often overlooked, I am afraid.

I would like the parliamentary secretary to comment on the fact that the position of victims ombudsman has remained vacant for far too long. It was supposed to be filled back in October. I wonder if he could comment on the process for that and why it has not been filled to date.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague. I work with him at the justice committee and always appreciate his interventions, but I am a little perplexed as to why we are not talking about the bill itself and are speaking about issues that are ancillary to the bill.

With respect to the bill itself, there is a process allowing different parties to be involved in the process. Ours is an outdated way of reviewing judges' conduct. It is 51 years old, to be exact. We look forward to a proper debate on this. We introduced this bill back in December of last year, and obviously our legislative calendar has been extensive. It has included the passage of Bill C-5, which we were able to get through yesterday. We are very much committed to moving this bill forward.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, everyone has heard about the case of Justice Girouard, who committed wrongdoing two weeks before his appointment in 2010. After all the appeals, his sanctions process took 10 years. I am wondering if the timeline could be tightened up drastically through the changes proposed by the Bill C-9. That would improve public confidence in the justice system.

I would also like to know whether my hon. colleague believes that the federal government will be able to make significant savings in this process, which is often too long and complex and, at times, undermines the confidence of Quebeckers and Canadians in the justice system.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I fully agree with my colleague. We have heard from the Canadian Judicial Council about the delays, and we have heard the frustration from the public about the delays. One of the things this bill tries to do is streamline the process, make it more efficient and make it more cost-effective to ensure justice is served in a timely manner.

We have an incredible justice system and incredible judiciary, but for the odd time when there is a lapse, it is important to have continued public confidence in our system. We are grateful for the support of my friend opposite.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:50 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for setting out so clearly the legislation before us. It has obviously been delayed, and we obviously need to update the Canadian Judicial Council. I hope he will not mind if I stray from what the bill would do and ask if the government would be prepared to expand it to what judges do after they retire.

I am personally very concerned that Supreme Court of Canada judges, upon retirement, are available for hire to private sector lobby interests, and that the advice they provide is bought and paid for. I think of those who have worked for SNC-Lavalin, as an example. They really should be precluded from taking private sector work after leaving the bench.

I wonder if the hon. parliamentary secretary has heard of any current discussions of whether that might be a good idea.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I look forward to speaking to my colleague about this issue further. However, what she has cited is not the subject of this particular bill. This bill is focused on the reform of the complaints process to make sure that it is fair, it is efficient, it is expedient and it is cost-effective. Of course, for any other issues relating to judges, I look forward to talking to any member about their concerns, and I will take them back to the minister.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:50 a.m.
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Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for once again laying out what the bill intends to do.

I found it quite interesting that the first question he got from the Conservatives was about timing and why it is taking so long, as though the Conservatives have not been here to witness the antics they have been up to for the last five or six months. Our fall economic statement did not get voted on until late spring because of Conservative shenanigans. I am pretty certain that even if the Conservatives completely agreed with every part of this bill, they would still not let is pass through the House for no reason other than just to be obstructive.

The member is the parliamentary secretary for a ministry that has introduced a lot of legislation in the last few months. I wonder if he can comment a bit on the frustration that he sees with respect to moving legislation through the House.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I ran on a platform of hope and hard work, and we have been working very hard with a great deal of optimism to bring forward legislation.

While I concur with my friend on the many obstructionist tactics of the opposition, I do want to say that there were moments when we came together. The motion on amendments to the Saskatchewan Act is an example of that, and I congratulate my friend opposite.

I believe this is a bill that we can all come together on and get passed right away.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I notice that the two Liberals who have gotten up in the House to speak about the bill and ask questions have resiled from a discussion about victims. My colleague for Fundy Royal specifically asked a question on how victims are implicated by the bill and how they would benefit from an improved complaints process. However, all they did, both the parliamentary secretary and my colleague from Kingston and the Islands, was deflect. They do not want to talk about victims; they want to talk about something else.

Could the hon. member please explain to the House how victims will benefit from this legislation? At the end of the day, we are talking about judges, the ones who render judgment in many criminal cases across this country, and it is the victims of crime who are often left hanging and fall through the cracks.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my friend's question, and I want to remind him that the Conservative Party does not have exclusivity on protecting victims. I think all of us in the House absolutely have a responsibility there, and we are very much committed to ensuring that the voices of those who are particularly impacted are heard.

Bill C-9 would allow for complaints to come forward, including from victims and other actors within the overall justice system. The bill would make it easier for these complaints to go through the process so they will not have to wait seven, eight or 10 years. They would be dealt with expeditiously. The levels of appeal that are available currently would be curtailed so that the process is more efficient.

I fundamentally believe that this would enhance the confidence that Canadians have, including victims, in coming forward with complaints. What we want to do is establish the space for people to come forward and have confidence that they can complain and still get a fair hearing in a timely manner.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, on the question of timing, I have to note that one thing that helps governments accomplish their legislative priorities is time. In the last Parliament, the Prime Minister chose to call an election needlessly when all the opposition parties pledged not to cause an election. I wonder how these priorities factor into the decision-making of the government, and how the Liberals can call it a priority when they showed that they were so clearly willing to put what they thought were their partisan interests ahead of the priorities in the bill.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Speaker, the Minister of Justice has brought forward a number of pieces of legislation, including Bill C-5, which passed yesterday. A motion on the Saskatchewan Act was passed several months ago. We have Bill C-9 too, which is currently in the works.

We will continue to bring forward all of our priorities. We believe this bill is a priority and we want to get it passed.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2022 / 10:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, as we approach the final sitting days of the House before it rises, this is likely my last opportunity to speak before we all return to our ridings for the summer months. In light of this, I would like to start off my remarks today by acknowledging the great people of my riding of Fundy Royal, whom I am honoured to represent here in this 44th Parliament.

On the topic at hand, we are here today to discuss Bill C-9, an act to amend the Judges Act. I will begin by going over a bit of a summary of the bill.

The legislation would amend the Judges Act to replace the process through which the conduct of federally appointed judges is reviewed by the Canadian Judicial Council. It would establish a new process for reviewing allegations of misconduct that are not serious enough to warrant a judge’s removal from office and would make changes to the process by which recommendations regarding removal from office can be made to the Minister of Justice. As with the provisions it replaces, this new process would also apply to persons, other than judges, who are appointed under an act of Parliament to hold office during good behaviour.

In short, the objective of the legislation is to update the Judges Act to strengthen the judicial complaints process. The existing process was established in 1971, so it is due for a refresh. We can all agree that strengthening and increasing confidence in the judicial system, and taking action to better respond to complaints that it may receive from Canadians, are good things. Canadians are really depending on this Parliament to strengthen our judicial system.

As it stands, the judicial system in Canada has been weakened by COVID delays and a lack of resources for victims in particular, like, as I have mentioned, the vacant victims ombudsman position. There really is no excuse today for that when we see so many stories ripped from the headlines that impact Canadian victims. We also see legislation like the bill the parliamentary secretary just mentioned, Bill C-5. The victims we have talked to, whom we have seen and heard from at committee, are concerned about that bill and its predecessor bill, Bill C-22. The victims ombudsman had a lot to say about it.

I would love the benefit of hearing from a victims ombudsman, except we do not have one. We were supposed to have that position filled back in October, so for many, many months it has been vacant. That is completely unacceptable, not only for victims and their families but also for all Canadians. I should note that when the position of the federal ombudsman for federal offenders in our federal prison system became vacant, it was filled the next day. We can see where the government's priorities are.

Bill C-9 was originally introduced in the Senate as Bill S-5 on May 25, 2021. The previous version of the bill did not complete second reading. We heard commentary across the way about delays, with some asking why we are talking about delays. Why was that bill not passed? Well, the Prime Minister called his snap pandemic election in August 2021. That is what happened with that version of the bill.

The bill was reintroduced in the Senate last year as Bill S-3, but the government had an apparent change of heart, dropping Bill S-3 from the Senate Order Paper in December of 2021 and introducing that bill in the House of Commons as Bill C-9. That is where it has languished for months until today, just days before we go into our summer recess.

The bill would modify the existing judicial review process by establishing a process for complaints serious enough to warrant removal from office, and another process for offences that would warrant sanctions other than removal, such as counselling, continuing education and reprimands. Currently, if misconduct is less serious, a single member of the Canadian Judicial Council who conducts the initial review may negotiate with a judge for an appropriate remedy.

It may be helpful at this point to provide a bit of background on the Canadian Judicial Council, what it does and who its members are.

Established by Parliament in 1971, the Canadian Judicial Council is mandated to “promote the efficiency, uniformity, and to improve the quality of judicial services in all superior courts in Canada.” Through this mandate, the Canadian Judicial Council presides over the judicial complaints process.

The Canadian Judicial Council is made up of 41 members and is led by the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Right Hon. Richard Wagner, who is chairperson of the council. The membership is made up of chief justices and associate chief justices of the Canadian provincial and federal superior courts. The goal of the members is to improve consistency in the administration of justice before the courts and the quality of services in Canada's superior courts.

Returning back to the bill itself, the reasons a judge could be removed from office are laid out. These include infirmity, misconduct, failure in the due execution of judicial office and “the judge [being] in a position that a reasonable, fairminded and informed observer would consider to be incompatible with the due execution of judicial office.” A screening officer can dismiss complaints should they seem frivolous or improper, rather than referring to them to the review panel. A complaint that alleges sexual harassment or discrimination may not be dismissed. The full screening criteria will be published by the Canadian Judicial Council.

The minister or Attorney General may themselves request the Canadian Judicial Council establish a full hearing panel to determine whether the removal from the office of a superior court judge is justified. The Canadian Judicial Council is to submit a report within three months after the end of each calendar year with respect to the number of complaints received and the actions taken. The intention of this bill, as stated by the government, is to streamline the process for more serious complaints for which removal from the bench could be an outcome.

As I mentioned earlier, these amendments would also address the current shortcomings of the process by imposing mandatory sanctions on a judge when a complaint of misconduct is found to be justified but not to be serious enough to warrant removal from office. Again, such sanctions could include counselling, continuing education and reprimands. In the name of transparency, this legislation would require that the Canadian Judicial Council include the number of complaints received and how they were resolved in its annual public report.

To clarify, the Canadian Judicial Council’s process applies only to federally appointed judges, which are the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada and the federal courts, the provincial and territorial superior trial courts and the provincial and territorial courts of appeal. The provinces and territories are responsible for reviewing the conduct of the judges at the provincial-territorial trial court level, who are also provincially appointed.

Since its inception in 1971, the Canadian Judicial Council has completed inquiries into eight complaints considered serious enough that they could warrant a judge's removal from the bench. Four of them, in fact, did result in recommendations for removal. A ninth inquiry is under way, but has faced delays due to public health restrictions imposed by the Province of Quebec, such as curfew and indoor capacity limits.

Under the proposed new process laid out in Bill C-9, the Canadian Judicial Council would continue to preside over the judicial complaints process, which would start with a three-person review panel deciding to either investigate a complaint of misconduct or, if the complaint is serious enough that it might warrant removal from the bench, refer it to a separate five-person hearing panel. If appropriate, a three-person review panel made up of a Canadian Judicial Council member, a judge and a layperson could impose such sanctions as public apologies or courses of continuing education. If warranted, a five-person hearing panel made up of two Canadian Judicial Council members, a judge, a lawyer and a layperson could, after holding a public hearing, recommend removal from the bench to the Minister of Justice.

Judges who face removal from the bench would have access to an appeal panel made up of three Canadian Judicial Council members and two judges and finally to the Supreme Court of Canada, should the court agree to hear the appeal.

I know that sounded very convoluted and lengthy, but believe it or not, this would actually streamline the current process for court review of council decisions, which currently involves judicial review by two additional levels of court, those being the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, before a judge can ask the Supreme Court to hear the case.

The amendments would provide for a funding mechanism for the new process. The financial impact of the review process has been raised by a number of stakeholders. I want to encourage the Liberal government to take its fiscal responsibility to taxpayers into consideration with all government policies, but this bill is as good a start as any.

I would like to take a moment to point out that we have the former leader of the Conservative Party to thank for paving the way to having this bill before the House of Commons today. The Hon. Rona Ambrose introduced her private member's bill, Bill C-337, in 2017. This legislation would require the Canadian judiciary to produce a report every year that detailed how many judges had completed training in sexual assault law and how many cases were heard by judges who had not been trained, as well as a description of the courses that were taken. It would also require any lawyer applying for a position in the judiciary to have first completed sexual assault case training and education. Last, it would result in a greater number of written decisions from judges presiding over sexual assault trials, thus providing improved transparency for Canadians seeking justice.

The original premise of Bill C-337 was in response to a complaint about the behaviour a federal judge who was presiding over a case of sexual assault in 2014. The Canadian Judicial Council of which we speak today launched an investigation into the behaviour of that judge. Ultimately, in March 2017, the Canadian Judicial Council sent a letter to the federal Minister of Justice recommending that this judge be removed from the bench, and the minister accepted the recommendation.

The bill before us today works to expedite and facilitate the complaints process so that extreme cases like the one I just referenced can be fully and properly reviewed without causing too much disruption in terms of time, costs and delays in processing smaller but still important complaints.

Earlier this year, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights received correspondence from the Canadian Bar Association stating its support for the legislation as written in Bill C-9. In part, its letter reads as follows:

The CBA commented on the state of the judicial discipline process in its 2014 submission to the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC). On the subject of judicial discipline proceedings, our 16 recommendations were to ensure that the objectives of balancing the independence of the judiciary and the public’s confidence in the administration of justice were respected in the process. The CJC and Justice Canada responded with its own reports, which culminated in the present amendments to the Judges Act proposed by the Minister of Justice.

The letter from the Canadian Bar Association goes on to say:

In the view of the CBA Subcommittee, Bill C-9 strikes a fair balance between the right to procedural fairness and public confidence in the integrity of the justice system with the discipline of judges who form the core of that system. The proposed amendments enhance the accountability of judges, builds transparency, and creates cost-efficiencies in the process for handling complaints against members of the Bench.

I would like to pause here briefly just to say that at a moment like this, looking at a bill like this, it seems to me that it would be a very good time to have a federal ombudsman for victims of crime to hear the perspective on how the judicial complaints process is or is not currently working and how this bill would or would not be able to meet those challenges or rectify those concerns.

In testimony given to the justice committee on June 3, 2021, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime at that time raised what she described as a “most critical” issue, which was the legal recourse or remedy that victims have if their rights are violated.

She stated:

Currently, victims do not have a way to enforce the rights given to them in law; they only have a right to make a complaint to various agencies. This means that victims have to rely on the goodwill of criminal justice officials and corrections officials to give effect to or implement their statutory rights under the bill. This means victims count on police, Crown prosecutors, courts, review boards, corrections officials and parole boards to deliver, uphold and respect their rights.

But my office continues to receive complaints from victims that are common across all jurisdictions in Canada. Victims report to us that they are not consistently provided information about their rights or how to exercise them, they feel overlooked in all of the processes, and they have no recourse when officials don't respect their rights.

While the bill we are discussing today is, as I said earlier, a step in the right direction, there is certainly more work that needs to be done to make sure our justice system in Canada works for everyone who comes into contact with it, and I will add especially victims. One way this can be achieved is by immediately filling the position of federal ombudsman for victims of crime, which has now been vacant for nine months. There is absolutely no excuse for this position to have remained vacant for nine months when other positions are filled immediately, including, as I mentioned earlier, the position of ombudsman for those who are in our federal prisons.

By contrast, as I was mentioning, when the offenders ombudsman position became vacant, the Liberal government filled it the very next day, as it should have been. It should be filled right away, but so should the position of the ombudsman for victims of crime.

In 2021, the Canadian Judicial Council published “Ethical Principles for Judges”. I would like to reference excerpts from this publication to add some context into the role and duty of the judiciary.

They read as follows:

An independent and impartial judiciary is the right of all and constitutes a fundamental pillar of democratic governance, the rule of law and justice in Canada....

Today, judges’ work includes case management, settlement conferences, judicial mediation, and frequent interaction with self-represented litigants. These responsibilities invite further consideration with respect to ethical guidance. In the same manner, the digital age, the phenomenon of social media, the importance of professional development for judges and the transition to post-judicial roles all raise ethical issues that were not fully considered twenty years ago. Judges are expected to be alert to the history, experience and circumstances of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and to the diversity of cultures and communities that make up this country. In this spirit, the judiciary is now more actively involved with the wider public, both to enhance public confidence and to expand its own knowledge of the diversity of human experiences in Canada today.

As was just referenced, social context and society overall change over time, and critical institutions like the justice system must grow to reflect these changes. Much of the time, this simply requires education on emerging issues or a more updated perspective on older issues.

In order to grow, there is a crucial partnership that must be respected between the judiciary and Parliament. While the Parliament and the courts are separate entities, there is a back-and-forth conversation between the two that is essential to our democracy and our judiciary. We have recently seen examples in which that conversation, unfortunately, was desperately lacking. On Friday, May 27, of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the punishment of life without parole in cases concerning mass murderers.

When confronted on the impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Liberal government is determined to stick to their talking points by telling Parliament and concerned Canadians that we should not worry about mass killers actually receiving parole, because that possible outcome is extremely rare. What that actually means is that this government is comfortable putting these families through a revictimizing, retraumatizing parole process, even though, at the end of the day, it is essentially all for show because, according to the government, we just need to trust that a mass killer will not receive parole anyway.

In the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling, the decision stated, “A life sentence without a realistic possibility of parole presupposes the offender is beyond redemption and cannot be rehabilitated. This is degrading in nature and incompatible with human dignity. It amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.”

What the court is saying here is that keeping mass killers behind bars for the number of years that a judge has already decided would adequately reflect the gravity of their crimes amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment”. Personally, I and many others feel and believe that having the victims' families endure a parole hearing every two years for the rest of their lives is the real cruel and unusual punishment, and the federal government has a duty and a responsibility to respond to the court’s decision, something that it has not done and has shown no inclination to do.

Essentially, the Supreme Court also ruled on May 13 that one can drink one’s way out of a serious crime. We have called on the government to respond to that as well, and we look forward to debate on the response that needs to be coming. Just because the Supreme Court has made these rulings does not mean that this is the end of the road. What it means is that there is a discussion and a dialogue that has to take place, and now the ball is in our court. It is for us to deal with these decisions in Parliament. The Liberals can now create legislation that responds to the Supreme Court’s decisions, and this legislation can be used to make sure that victims, survivors and their families can live in a country where they are equally protected and respected by our justice system.

Bill C-9, an act to amend the Judges Act, is a step in the right direction. I will note that there is much, much more to be done to make sure that the justice system is fair and balanced for all.