Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'm pleased to have been invited to speak to the honourable members of this House in my capacity as interim executive director of the Canadian Judicial Council. While I am no longer a judge or a member of the council, I do have significant knowledge of the council, as I am the former chief justice of Nova Scotia and I was a council member for over 20 years.
Madam Chair, if it's fine with you, Justice Kent and I propose the following approach. She will soon speak about the excellent educational programming available to all judges in Canada through the National Judicial Institute. I will then speak to the council's overall view of Bill C-5and its laudable goal of strengthening public confidence in our justice system, particularly for sexual assault survivors. The goal is one that the judiciary in Canada wholeheartedly agrees with.
We do, however, want to respectfully stress two concerns for your consideration. Firstly, the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers require judicial education to always remain under the control and supervision of the judiciary and free from outside influence. Of particular concern would be influence from government, which after all, is a party to all sexual assault cases.
The second area of concern involves the fact that this legislation covers only federally appointed judges. Yet our provincial and territorial judges hear the vast majority of sexual assault cases. In our view, they require access to the same judge-led training opportunities as their federal counterparts.
If the government is intent on passing this bill, then to address our judicial independence concerns, I will propose some minor adjustments to the bill's present language to temper and moderate the bill's effect on the principles of judicial independence.
Then we would be happy to take questions.
First, I would like to say a word about the role of the Canadian Judicial Council. The council is composed of all federally appointed chief justices and associate chief justices of Canada's superior courts. It works to preserve and enhance public confidence in the judiciary. Chief justices must be, and be seen to be, leaders in the education of judges.
Furthermore, honourable members, as Justice Kent will detail, Canadian chief justices are and must be leaders in judicial education. Overseeing judicial education is a fundamental responsibility of the judicial branch of government and is a key focus of our council's mandate. I can assure each and every one of you that every council member takes very seriously their responsibility to provide oversight and guidance on the kinds of continuing education the respective judges undertake.
In short, to ensure public confidence in the administration of justice, the justice system relies on a well-educated, professional and independent judiciary.
Let me again make it clear that we entirely agree with the laudable objectives of this legislation and what it seeks to achieve. All Canadian judges must be keenly aware of the challenges faced by survivors of sexual assault. I have three daughters. My daughter is a first-year lawyer. She reminds me that the social context to education of the type targeted by this bill is as important and fundamental as our understanding of contract law, tort law, criminal law and other substantive law.
As my colleague, Justice Kent, will attest to and provide more detail on, the National Judicial Institute, Canada's primary education provider for Canadian judges, is committed to ensuring that its professional development programs and resources meet the needs of Canada's judiciary and ultimately help to strengthen the justice system.
The judiciary is keenly aware of the need to continually improve and learn to maintain the confidence of the public. Let me respectfully say, in our humble opinion, we are on top of this.
My colleague, the NJI judge, will now provide you with more details in this regard.