Evidence of meeting #26 for Justice and Human Rights in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was candidates.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

H. Wade MacLauchlan  Chairperson, Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments

10:05 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Randeep Sarai

I call this meeting to order.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to meeting number 26 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The committee is meeting to discuss the nomination of the Honourable Michelle O’Bonsawin to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Today’s meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website.

For those on Zoom, you have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of floor, English or French. I believe Madam Lori Idlout might be speaking in Inuktitut, and there will be translation services made available during her speaking time as well. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.

I would like to welcome our witnesses. They are the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Wade MacLauchlan, chairperson of the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments.

Gentlemen, the floor is yours.

August 24th, 2022 / 10:05 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec


David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Honourable colleagues, to begin, I would like to acknowledge that I am speaking to you today from the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. I would also like to thank the chair and members of this committee, here and virtually, for convening this special session in late August. I would also like thank the Honourable Wade MacLauchlan, chair of the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments, for joining us today.

It's a great honour for me to speak to you in support of the nomination of the Honourable Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin, a nominee for the Supreme Court of Canada. I am confident that she will serve Canadians exceptionally, upholding the court’s highest ideals in guiding the evolution of Canada’s laws. I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Justice O’Bonsawin, and I look forward to her appearance before parliamentarians this afternoon.

This is the fifth time our government has followed the process implemented by the Prime Minister in 2016 to appoint justices to the Supreme Court of Canada. This is the third time we are doing it since I took office as Minister of Justice.

Two points come up when I think about this process.

First, the process produces exceptional justices who have brought to the court not only undeniable legal excellence, but also a rich humanity and a deep understanding of diversity in Canada. The appointment of those jurists has broadly been commended by all parties, across the legal community and the general public.

Second, and perhaps even more important, is the confidence that Canadians have placed in the process itself.

As the committee members are well aware, public confidence in our courts and the justice system is a precious commodity, one that must be subject to constant vigilance.

Particular vigilance is required when it comes to the selection of a nation's Supreme Court justices. How that is done can greatly affect public confidence, for better or for worse.

On this front, we can be proud of a process that incorporates values and elements that the public can trust, a process that is free of partisanship and that relies instead on rigorous assessment by an independent board. Adhering to this process, vacancy after vacancy gives Canadians confidence that the government is clearly committed to the values the process enshrines. This provides stability, which I believe strengthens the court and the public’s confidence in it.

In global times of conflict, polarization and the erosion of trust in democratic values, it is more important than ever to commit to processes, such as this one, that are fundamental to strengthening our democratic principles. Processes that are understood and respected by the broad Canadian public allow us to peacefully thrive in our diverse society. In light of this, I want to thank you, the members of this committee, for your contributions and support of the process.

Before describing the process in a bit more detail, I would like to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude, on behalf of all Canadians, to Justice Michael Moldaver, who will be retiring from the Supreme Court next Thursday. His contributions to the criminal law are unparalleled. His wisdom and collegiality have brightened the Supreme Court for almost 11 years.

Justice Moldaver has led a career marked by a deep commitment to justice and fairness and to a justice system that the public can understand and trust. His contributions to the Supreme Court, to our jurisprudence and to our justice system have been monumental.

It is with deep gratitude that I thank Justice Moldaver for his service and wish him much joy in his retirement. I wish him all the best and success in all his future endeavours.

I would like to get back to the selection process by noting that candidates must demonstrate not only legal and professional excellence, but also show how their lived experiences have shaped their understanding of Canadian society in all its diversity. The process requires that candidates be assessed against the transparent, merit-based criteria by an independent advisory board of highly qualified individuals.

This board is at the heart of the selection process. I am delighted to be joined today by its chairperson, the Honourable Wade MacLauchlan.

I'm also grateful to the individuals who have worked with Mr. MacLauchlin as members of this independent advisory board.

These members are appointed not only by the government, but also by organizations that are committed to preserving the rule of law and looking after the interests of Canadian society. These organizations are the Canadian Bar Association, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, the Canadian Judicial Council and the Council of Canadian Law Deans.

Earlier this year, the mandate order in council for the advisory board was amended to expand the independent advisory board to include a member nominated by the Indigenous Bar Association. This change flows from my mandate letter commitment to work with stakeholders to encourage indigenous persons to join the bench. I am grateful to the Indigenous Bar Association for its support in this process.

The composition of the independent advisory board ensures that the judicial selection process mirrors a critical aspiration for the Supreme Court itself—that it truly reflect our society and be a place in which Canadians can see themselves and their life experiences represented.

Prime Minister Trudeau launched the current selection process on April 4, 2022. The Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments has been tasked with recommending three to five candidates who are of the highest possible calibre, functionally bilingual and representative of Canada's diversity. In keeping with the long-standing practice of regional representation on the court, this selection process was open to all qualified candidates from Ontario.

Interested candidates had until May 13, 2022 to submit their applications. The independent advisory board reviewed all applications submitted against public merit criteria.

This review included consultations with the Chief Justice of Canada, references and interested parties, as well as meetings with some candidates. The board conducted its work in a confidential manner, as required by its mandate and confidentiality agreements with each member.

At the end of this review, the independent advisory board provided the Prime Minister with a report on the short-listed candidates.

I was then consulted on the short list to provide my advice to the Prime Minister. I consulted with chief justices—including the Chief Justice of Canada—the Attorney General of Ontario, cabinet colleagues, opposition justice critics, members of this committee and of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, as well as distinguished members of the bar.

The Prime Minister then made his final selection.

I would now like to turn to Wade MacLauchlan to speak to the process from his perspective. I will then return to say a few words about the nominee.


10:10 a.m.

H. Wade MacLauchlan Chairperson, Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments

Mr. Chair, members of the committee and Minister, good morning.

It is a great honour to serve as chairperson of the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments.

It is also an honour to appear before this committee this morning.

I am here as chair of an impressive and dedicated group of Canadians who served with me as members of the independent advisory board for nominations to the Supreme Court of Canada. The other seven members of the independent advisory board include

the Honourable Louise Charron, former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, nominated by the Canadian Judicial Council, and Jacqueline Horvat, nominated by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.

I might add that during the course of our advisory board work, Ms. Horvat was elected treasurer of the Law Society of Ontario. That's just a reminder that the board members had other things on their plates as well as this important work.

Dr. Richard Jochelson, dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba, was nominated by the Council of Canadian Law Deans.

David Nahwegahbow was nominated by the Indigenous Bar Association. I might add that during the course of our work, Mr. Nahwegahbow was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by the Law Society of Ontario during its June 22, 2022, call to the bar ceremony.

Paulette Senior, CEO of the Canadian Women's Foundation, was nominated by the Minister of Justice.

Konrad Sioui, former grand chief of the Huron-Wendat nation, was nominated by the Minister of Justice.

Charlene Theodore, formerly president of the Ontario Bar Association, was nominated by the Canadian Bar Association.

The members of the independent advisory board all brought to our work a background of professional accomplishment and a vast array of experience. What's more, they brought a profound commitment to the rule of law, the institutional significance of the Supreme Court of Canada and the best interests of our country and all Canadians. We worked diligently, with considerable commitment of priority and time in working and studying and deliberating together. I might add that we enjoyed working together.

The mandate of the independent advisory board is to propose suitable candidates for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada. Those candidates are jurists of high calibre who are functionally bilingual and representative of Canada's diversity. The process that just concluded was open to candidates from the province of Ontario.

The ultimate task of the independent advisory board was to submit to the Prime Minister a report containing a short list of three to five highly qualified individuals.

The advisory board was the beneficiary of some very helpful guidance and wisdom. The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, who served as chair of the advisory board for the previous four Supreme Court nominations, was most helpful and encouraging from the earliest stages of the process, offering wisdom and insights based on her experience. The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of Canada, met with our advisory board early in the process to discuss the institutional needs of the court and the role and demands of a Supreme Court justice. Throughout our work, the advisory board was supported by the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs and his accomplished and dedicated staff.

When it comes to filling a position on the Supreme Court of Canada, the first task is to get the word out. On the face of things, that seems rather obvious. Some might wonder why it would be necessary. Justice Michael Moldaver announced in late February that he would retire on September 1, after 11 years on the Supreme Court of Canada and a total of 32 years as a judge. Most interested observers would have known that Justice Moldaver will turn 75 in December.

The point about getting the word out is not so much to give notice but to set in motion networks of encouragement. Lawyers and jurists who are highly qualified in a way that makes them contenders for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada are not in the habit of applying for a job. They may need an encouraging nudge from colleagues. They will need to talk it over at home to weigh family considerations, including what it means to move and to relocate to Ottawa.

They are required to complete an elaborate application, as you will have seen from studying the file of Madam O'Bonsawin. It delves deeply into their professional track record and experience as well as personal skills and qualities. They may be members of traditionally under-represented groups.

In the days following my appointment as chair of the independent advisory board and after the Prime Minister announced the launch of the selection process for the next Supreme Court justice, I wrote and sent letters to a wide variety of legal organizations and interest groups in the legal field.

I also wrote to the chief justices of the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Superior Court of Justice, the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court and the Ontario Court of Justice.

I also followed up with phone calls to chief justices. These calls and letters were intended to create a culture of encouragement, not to seek out candidates or discuss specific candidates.

The deadline for submissions of applications was May 13. The other seven members of the independent advisory board were confirmed at about the same time. We had our first in-person meetings in Ottawa on May 19 and 20. Our report to the Prime Minister was completed on June 22.

This is an intensive process calling for much discernment and humanity in addition to dedicated preparation and time commitment. Of course, this is the case for the candidates who put their names forward as well as for independent advisory board members.

There were 12 applications. The independent advisory board opted to interview six highly qualified individuals. The interviews were extensive, giving candidates upwards of an hour to respond to questions about their experience, views and commitment to serving on the Supreme Court of Canada. The independent advisory board was especially interested to explore candidates' approach to collegiality, the workload of the court and issues of integrity, diversity and judgment. Our checklist of criteria for assessment included superior knowledge of the law, superior analytical skills, ability to solve complex legal problems, ability to work under significant time pressures requiring diligent review of voluminous materials in any areas of the law, and commitment to public service.

The personal qualities assessed included irreproachable personal and professional integrity; respect and consideration for others; ability to appreciate a diversity of views, perspectives and life experiences, including of groups historically disadvantaged in Canadian society; moral courage; discretion; and open-mindedness.

All candidates interviewed were functionally bilingual. The interviews were conducted in both official languages. Immediately following the interview, each candidate participated in an assessment conducted by the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs to ascertain the candidate's understanding of written and oral arguments as well as to determine the candidate's ability to speak in both official languages. A report, including each candidate's assessment score, was provided to the independent advisory board.

The independent advisory board pursued references for each candidate interviewed as well as discussions with chief justices. The interviews were conducted by IAB members who spoke directly to referees following a consistent format. The ultimate task of the advisory board is to draft and finalize a consolidated report.

From the beginning of this process to the end, there has been total respect for the need for confidentiality. A further commitment of the independent advisory board has been to treat every candidate who submitted an application with fairness, dignity and good grace.

The process involves considerable study, judgment and detailed consideration of the candidates in a space of just under six weeks. Without the total dedication of the members of the independent advisory board, including flexibility in their schedules, and the expert support of the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, this would have been exceptionally difficult. Despite this tight time frame, the independent advisory board fulfilled its mandate with the diligence, cooperation and judgment that this important process requires.

That said, anything that can be done to add a week or even two weeks to the time frame offered would be beneficial in future Supreme Court appointment processes.

In previous appearances before this committee, the Right Honourable Kim Campbell spoke about the desirability of having what she referred to as a broader conversation among people in the profession and the community about what is required to be a Supreme Court justice so that there's a greater knowledge of what is actually entailed.

In her 2019 appearance, Madam Campbell spoke about this in the context of building an environment that might encourage even more people to apply. She said:

I think, particularly for women, if they have families and are likely to have spouses who also have careers, this might be something that could overcome some reservations.

She also said:

If this were an ongoing conversation, as opposed to something that we scramble to do just in the face of an imminent departure from the court and the need to recruit a new candidate, I think it might be something that could broaden the scope of the candidates.

I concur with these comments and note that both Chief Justice Wagner and former chief justice Beverley McLachlin have taken significant steps to enhance the profile of the Supreme Court of Canada. In September of this year, the Supreme Court will sit in Quebec City, following the model of its first out-of-Ottawa hearings in Winnipeg in September 2019. All members of the court participate generously through speaking engagements and other public activities, such as the feature television interview given in June by Justice Jamal on the one-year anniversary of his appointment to the court.

Still, there is what I call an episodic quality to the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. Given the ages and stages of the current justices, it could be a number of years before the next vacancy. That in itself is not a bad thing. There has been considerable change in the membership of the Supreme Court over the past decade. The coming period could be a window of opportunity to enhance these networks of encouragement that I spoke about earlier in my remarks so that lawyers and judges have more time to consider what might be involved in being a candidate for a Supreme Court appointment when the opportunity arises.

The transparency and independence of this nomination process can only add to that environment of encouragement.

I will conclude with two remarks.

First, this process has resulted in the nomination of Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin, a highly qualified jurist who brings many gifts and talents to the Supreme Court of Canada, including as the first indigenous person to serve as a member of the court. This in itself is convincing proof that we are making progress in building an environment of encouragement and inclusion with impact extending well beyond the work of the Supreme Court of Canada.

My final remark is to say that it has been a truly uplifting experience to serve as chair of the independent advisory board. It has been an opportunity of a lifetime to work with the seven other members of the advisory board and our supporting team. We would all say that we treasure the collaboration, diligence and humanity that we have shared. It has been uplifting to get to know all of the candidates who came forward for this position.

We are extremely fortunate in this country to have a widely shared respect for the rule of law and for the Supreme Court of Canada as an institution. We are fortunate to have people of exceptional calibre who contribute in so many ways and in so many capacities to ensuring that this is the case and continues to be so, and ultimately, to serve Canadians.

The opportunity to appear before this committee today reinforces those values.

As I close, I'm going to refer to a note I got, one of the very first when I took on this task, from a former member of this committee, the Honourable Murray Rankin, who now serves in the Government of British Columbia. I've known Murray for many years.

He writes, “Dear Wade, I was delighted to learn of your new role in SCC judges selection. You're perfect for this vital role.” That's not why I'm reading it. He writes, “I was the NDP Justice critic for three appointments and I must say how proud I was as a Canadian of this process.”

I think that's a sentiment, Mr. Chair and committee members, on which I will close my opening comments this morning.

I look forward to an exchange through questions.

Thank you.

10:25 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Randeep Sarai

Thank you.

10:25 a.m.


David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Thank you, Wade.

In the brief time I have, I cannot possibly paint a full picture of the professional and personal experiences and accomplishments of Justice Michelle O'Bonsawin. I instead offer a brief sketch of her background.

Judge O'Bonsawin grew up in Hanmer, a small francophone village near Sudbury, Ontario. As a first nations woman growing up in northern Ontario, she became aware of the need for dedicated individuals to give a voice to those who could not speak for themselves.

That inspired her and she decided to become a lawyer. She obtained a bachelor of arts degree from Laurentian University and a bachelor of law degree from the University of Ottawa and was called to the Ontario Bar.

She began her legal career with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Legal Services and later acted as counsel for Canada Post, where she specialized in labour and employment law, human rights and privacy law.

She then became general counsel with the Royal Ottawa Healthcare Group, where she developed a thorough understanding of legal issues related to mental health and the application of the Gladue principles in the forensic mental health system. She has appeared before a variety of administrative tribunals and various levels of courts.

While in this position, she earned a master's degree in law from Osgoode Hall Law School, with a specialty related to mental health rights.

In 2017, she was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and in 2021, she received her doctorate of law degree from the University of Ottawa, specializing in indigenous issues and mental health rights.

Both her legal and academic backgrounds provide significant grounding in important areas of criminal law, namely mental health law, as well as the implementation of Gladue principles.

At all stages of her career, Justice O'Bonsawin has volunteered with numerous organizations devoted to improving our justice system and our society more broadly. She has been actively involved as an educator, providing continuing education courses to members of the judiciary and teaching at the University of Ottawa.

Throughout her career, she has remained rooted in her Abenaki First Nation of Odanak. This includes participating in ceremonies, being supported by elders and taking courses in the Abenaki language.

I could go on, but I believe that even this brief sketch speaks to the professional and legal excellence of this fluently bilingual and accomplished jurist. Let there be no doubt that there are qualified indigenous candidates who speak both official languages.

Let me end by noting one aspect of Justice O'Bonsawin that stood out for me: her commitment to putting her talents, knowledge and experience to the service of others. She is dedicated to continually sharpening her skills and broadening her knowledge so that she can be of better service to others in their vast diversity of needs and backgrounds.

I need only point to the fact that despite being a member of the judiciary, she persisted in completing her research and defending her thesis for her doctorate degree while continuing to sit as a full-time judge. As someone who has completed a Ph.D., I must admit that I find it hard to imagine doing so while having a full-time job as demanding as that of a superior court judge. Justice O'Bonsawin has shown extraordinary commitment in her legal career.

As the first indigenous justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice O'Bonsawin will bring an invaluable perspective and deep wisdom to the court. This is a historic moment not only for the indigenous peoples of Canada but also for all Canadians. The court’s decisions are enriched and strengthened when justices bring diverse perspectives. The court's legitimacy is enhanced when Canadians see themselves represented on the court.

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I look forward to answering your questions and those of committee members.

10:30 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Randeep Sarai

Thank you, Mr. Lametti and Mr. MacLauchlan.

I will now go to our first round of questions. We'll have them at six minutes to begin.

We'll begin with Mr. Moore for six minutes.

10:30 a.m.


Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's good to see you again.

Minister, as well as Wade MacLauchlan, it's good to see both of you. I hope you're doing well. Thank you for your contributions to this process, which has resulted in the nomination of Justice O'Bonsawin.

Minister, I want to echo your remarks around the retirement of Justice Moldaver. I wish him well in his retirement.

Wade MacLaughlan mentioned the various individuals involved in the process, some of whom are former judges, former premiers, former prime ministers, individuals who have “honourable” or “right honourable” in front of their names. It's important to have the views of individuals with deep experience in the process.

I was listening to the remarks by Justice O'Bonsawin about having access to justice and Canadians feeling that they are a part of our system. I think it's important, too, that everyday Canadians have the ability to give input through this process. One of the ways they do that is through us, members of the House of Commons. It's our job to represent the views of everyday Canadians, our constituents. Later today we have been invited to what is called an informal moderated Q and A session. It's not an actual committee of the House of Commons or the Senate, but a Q and A session moderated by someone who is not a parliamentarian.

I want to ask, Minister, for your thoughts. I have faith that our chair of the justice committee could have easily conducted this meeting and had a more formalized parliamentary committee rather than an informal chat, while still respecting the individual, the nomination and the process. I have every bit of faith that he and our committee members could have done that and maintained that stronger link, I feel, back to our constituents by doing our role as members of Parliament, not by an informal Q and A session.

I want to get your thoughts on that. That's something that struck me when the invitation came out.

10:35 a.m.


David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Thanks very much, Mr. Moore. It's always good to see you, if only at a distance. I hope your summer has gone well.

You've just asked a very important question in terms of the process.

Let me say, first of all, that I think this is a good process that balances the ability of parliamentarians. I share the view that parliamentarians have to have a role in this, and that's why we're here today. That's why you and others were consulted in my phase of consulting on the short list of candidates, and you and our other colleagues are here today asking questions as well, so I share that.

It was a process that was long sought after. Prior to 2016, there wasn't really a formal process for the selection of judges. A number of people weighed in. My predecessor, my former professor, Irwin Cotler, weighed in with suggestions, as did other experts. Professor Martin Friedland at the University of Toronto weighed in with suggestions on how to create a process that allowed for independent evaluation of a dossier, as well as parliamentary input, but did not turn into something that happens occasionally south of the border where it becomes hyper-political and hyper-partisan in terms of the nomination process for Supreme Court judges.

I think this represents a good balance. I think there is a strong role, as you are playing right now, for parliamentarians to participate in this process. Obviously, I'm always willing to entertain suggestions on how to make it better.

10:35 a.m.


Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you, Minister. I thought that is what you would say.

I don't share the concern around hyper-partisanship. I have every bit of faith, having worked with members on our justice committee, that they would be able to engage in this process in a parliamentary committee. I participated in the one on the appointment of Justice Rothstein, an ad hoc parliamentary committee. They would be able to conduct themselves in a way that respects the gravity of the process. We are all well aware of the impact of decisions that come from our Supreme Court, the weight of the types of decisions that are being contemplated as well as the very real impact they have on our day-to-day lives.

I heard from Justice O'Bonsawin a commentary around access to justice. This is an important appointment. A vacancy was created and your government is acting to fill it, as it should, and I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity while you're here at our justice committee to remind you, as I've done over the months, of the vacancy in the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, and ask that every effort be made to have that position filled as quickly as possible.

10:35 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Randeep Sarai

Unfortunately, Mr. Moore, we're out of time for that round, and I'll ask Mr. Lametti if, hopefully, he can answer that in a subsequent response.

10:35 a.m.


David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

That is in process, as I've said. That departure was unexpected and we hope to have something to announce relatively shortly.

10:35 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Randeep Sarai

Thank you, Mr. Lametti. Thank you, Mr. Moore.

I'll next go to Mr. Battiste.

Welcome to our committee today.

10:35 a.m.


Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you.

I'm deeply honoured to be here today on this very exciting and historic day. In my language, the Mi'kmaq language, we would say gelu'lg na'gweg, meaning this is a “great day”. It's a great day for many reasons.

As someone who has been a member of the Indigenous Bar Association for more than 20 years, as a student and then coming back as an indigenous parliamentarian, I have often heard the advocacy and the dream that some day we would see an indigenous nominee to the Supreme Court of Canada. In fact, this is an important thing that the Indigenous Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association have called for since 2005 when they said it was integral to Canada for us to advance indigenous law through these appointments. It's even more so with the TRC calls to action. Almost a quarter of the calls to action call for justice and equity for indigenous people within the legal system.

Minister Lametti, you spoke to the importance of having a justice system that reflects the Canadian public and how having indigenous laws enrich our Canadian justice system. I'm wondering if you could speak to the gravity of the historic moment that we're at today, where for so many years indigenous people have looked to Canadian laws, despite having their own indigenous laws, and saying they would trust these systems that have been created.

What do you think it means for the justice system today to have this historic day finally upon us?

10:40 a.m.


David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Thank you for that question.

I recognize the historical moment this is. I recognize the importance of this. I recognize your passion and emotion, so in answering the question, I understand how important this is not just to you but to indigenous peoples across Canada, and hopefully to non-indigenous Canadians as well.

It is extremely important that indigenous people are able to see themselves in what are, quite frankly, colonial institutions, see their participation as a way of making those institutions better and see this as a way of making Canadian law better by improving the substance of legal decisions. It is incredibly important to have that diversity reflected within the deliberations of those nine justices of the Supreme Court.

However, it's also critically important for everyone else throughout the system to know that this is possible. We have made progress on diversity in appointments. In recent months, I have elevated two people of indigenous background to courts of appeal: Justice Len Marchand in British Columbia and Justice Jonathon George in Ontario.

It is critically important for other indigenous jurists and indigenous people to see that they will be treated seriously in applying to whatever level of bench they apply and that they will be treated seriously in the practice. It also gives a boost to indigenous laws themselves and the revitalization of indigenous legal systems, because it adds to the legitimacy of the revitalization projects that are critically important as we move forward in making Canada a truly pluralistic legal system and in recognizing pluralistic legal systems within Canada and legal systems, normative systems, that have been here since time immemorial.

It's important on so many levels. I'm proud to be here.

10:40 a.m.

Chairperson, Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments

H. Wade MacLauchlan

If I may, I'd like to add to what the minister said.

I totally agree with it. I appreciate the question from Mr. Battiste and I'll expand on it to say that in addition to the perspective, experience and commitment that Justice O'Bonsawin will bring to the court, the element of diversity will add to the deliberation of the court on all of the matters it's dealing with and will add to the appreciation that Canadians have for the capabilities, reputation and integrity of the court itself.

This is an important piece of our path to reconciliation and it's an important element of how we continue to build a country of diversity, where we're always learning, where we're always growing and where the Supreme Court of Canada, as a court of general jurisdiction, will show leadership, as it has. Canadians can continue to benefit from having a court that is fully representative of the country as we continue to learn, grow and reconcile. It is indeed a historic thing.

10:45 a.m.


Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I'd like to thank you both for those comments.

10:45 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Randeep Sarai

Thank you, Mr. Battiste.

Now we'll go to Monsieur Fortin.

10:45 a.m.


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister and Chairperson of the independent advisory committee, thank you for joining us today.

I could not begin without also acknowledging the importance of diversity on the Supreme Court of Canada. This is an issue to which the Bloc Québécois has always been very sensitive. This nomination is part of that approach to diversity, and we are very pleased.

Although I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Justice O'Bonsawin, I have read about her. I'm really pleased with her skills. It will be a pleasure to have a little chat with her this afternoon.

That said, Minister, you are also aware of the great sensitivity of the Bloc Québécois with respect to the impartiality of nominations. You and I have had an opportunity to discuss this on a few occasions.

Before we get into other matters, I would just like you to confirm whether or not the Liberalist was consulted, or looked at, before Justice O'Bonsawin was recommended.

10:45 a.m.


David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

No, she was not consulted.

10:45 a.m.


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

She was not consulted before or after the independent advisory board's process.

Is that right?

10:45 a.m.


David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

To be honest, I consulted her yesterday, as I knew you would ask me this. I had not consulted her prior to that.

10:45 a.m.


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Minister.

I would now like to put a question to Chairperson MacLauchlan.

Mr. MacLauchlan, as I said at the outset, we appreciate the importance of taking diversity into account. However, I wonder how you go about it. You want to see people from diverse cultures and racial groups appointed to the Supreme Court, and we all do. Today, we are pleased to welcome Justice O'Bonsawin.

Of course, you have to assess the qualifications of the candidates, which I think is the ultimate criterion. We want to have competent judges. I am sure that both the minister and everyone else want the same thing.

Do you proceed by using a list? For instance, it could be lists that include white men, white women, black men and indigenous people.

How do you go about considering diversity while evaluating the best candidates?

10:45 a.m.

Chairperson, Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments

H. Wade MacLauchlan

Basically, the issue of diversity comes into play when individuals submit their applications. Once the independent advisory board receives the nominations, it assesses the qualifications of the candidates, their professional skills, their character, as well as their experience before various courts.

You will have had an opportunity to look at the candidate questionnaire that Justice O'Bonsawin submitted to the independent advisory board. The other candidates also submitted a candidate questionnaire. That document covers important questions.

Finally, our board assesses the quality of the nominations and the skills and character of the candidates.

10:50 a.m.


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

If I understand correctly, you recommend three to five candidates to the Prime Minister's Office.

When evaluating candidates, if the top five candidates are not from a diverse background, do you still recommend them to the Prime Minister or do you give an advantage to the sixth, seventh or eighth candidate who is from a diverse background?

10:50 a.m.

Chairperson, Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments

H. Wade MacLauchlan

The independent advisory board prepares a detailed report for the Prime Minister proposing three to five highly qualified individuals.

Our board also explains the reasoning behind the selection of candidates. We give ministers and the Prime Minister time to review this report and conduct consultations. We do not rank any of the nominations in the report.