Mr. Chair, this is an extremely serious issue, in terms of what took place several weeks ago when highly sensitive and confidential information about a respected jurist was leaked. Let me at the outset detail what those leaks were.
On March 26, there was a leak reported by CTV News and Canadian Press that the Prime Minister had disagreed with former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould's choice to replace Beverley McLachlin on the court. Wilson-Raybould had preferred Manitoba Chief Justice Glenn Joyal, but the Prime Minister rejected that choice because he saw Joyal as too critical of how courts apply the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In other words, it was an effort to smear a respected jurist. One day later, there was a further leak that the former attorney general preferred Joyal due to his stand in favour of individual rights. Again, it was an attack on the former attorney general.
It's quite clear that this is extremely serious. Why is it serious? In order for the Supreme Court selection process to function as it should, all matters relating to Supreme Court applications must be held completely confidential. It cannot be subject to leaks. It can't be subject to smears on the reputations of individual applicants who put their name forward.
What we have as a result of this leak is an undermining of the integrity of the appointment process, and a respected jurist has had a cloud cast over him. Quite frankly, this goes to the heart of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, which has been undermined as a result of this leak.
It should be noted that a cloud has not only been cast over Chief Justice Joyal, but a cloud has also been cast over Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner—a distinguished jurist who was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by Beverley McLachlin—as well as Sheilah Martin.
Now, don't take my word for it in terms of the seriousness of what we are dealing with here today. Take the words of Marc Giroux, the federal judicial affairs commissioner, who stated that he was “deeply concerned and troubled about the release to the media of any confidential information, be it accurate or not, that pertains to judicial appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada...”. Take the words of Ray Adlington, president of the Canadian Bar Association, who stated that the leak “demeans the selection process and ultimately all those who hold the office of judge.”
The president of the Manitoba Bar Association, Mark Toews, stated, “The MBA has always supported a fair and formal appointment process for the judges to the Supreme Court of Canada. It is vital that any deliberations leading up to any appointment remain confidential.” He continued, “The recent breaches of confidentiality where the suitability of other candidates are discussed is highly disconcerting. It demeans the entire selection process, and is harmful to the privacy of individual applicants.
Chief Justice Joyal was so offended by what had been leaked unfairly about him that he took the rather unprecedented step as a sitting chief justice, in the face of this unprecedented leak, to state, “I fear that someone is using my previous candidacy to the Supreme Court of Canada to further an agenda unrelated to the appointment process. This is wrong...”.
I would suggest as well that colleagues opposite heed the words of Liberals, including the current Attorney General, who stated, “The integrity of our process depends on confidentiality for all parties involved. Canadians should have complete confidence in the administration of justice.”
Perhaps one would heed the words of Penny Collenette, the former director of appointments to Prime Minister Chrétien, who said with respect to the leak that it's “shockingly bad form.”
Senator Percy Downe, Liberal, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Chrétien, said, “Agree. Appalling behaviour.”
The member for Beaches—East York, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, stated with respect to the leak, “It is outrageous.”
That lays the foundation for the seriousness of the matter and the concern that has been raised throughout the legal community about this. Notwithstanding that, I have to say I've been very disappointed with the seeming indifference on the part of the Prime Minister and the Attorney General to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
The Prime Minister's Office conveniently said they didn't leak it. I say “conveniently” because it's quite surprising that it wouldn't have emanated from the Prime Minister's Office given the nature and substance of the leak, the discussions that were had between the former attorney general and the Prime Minister, the nature of the leak in terms of trying to cast doubt on the judgment of the former attorney general, and the timing, namely, in the middle of this entire SNC-Lavalin scandal, which the government has been working overtime to cover up.
I should also note it's a bit interesting that when the leak initially occurred, the Prime Minister's Office didn't immediately deny that they leaked it. The current Attorney General, whom I quoted, was quite clear in his statement about the seriousness of the matter, but it has been several weeks, and he appears to have done nothing to get to the bottom of this matter.
Now we're here, yet again, before the justice committee. Is this the perfect venue to investigate this matter? No, it isn't, but given the fact that the Prime Minister's Office and the Prime Minister are seeming to take no action, and given the fact that the Attorney General has shown no interest in pursuing the matter, we are left with where we are today, here before the justice committee, to undertake hearings so that we can call witnesses and at least begin to get some answers on this very serious matter that goes to the rule of law and the independence of our judiciary.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.