Mr. Speaker, last year our government introduced an improved appointment process. We were determined to put in place an appointment process that Canadians could trust.
The new appointment process is open, transparent, and merit-based to identify highly qualified candidates who will help achieve gender parity while reflecting Canadian diversity.
This process was developed to find candidates who comply with public service principles and adhere to its values. Candidates must carry out their duties with dignity, integrity, and respect for the highest ethical and professional standards.
Just like officer of Parliament appointments, all new appointments must be reviewed by the appropriate House of Commons committee, and the appointment must be approved by Parliament.
Under the current process, all officer of Parliament appointments must first be tabled in the House and then considered by the appropriate committee. The final decision is always subject to approval by Parliament.
We believe it is anti-democratic to give a veto to a subcommittee for the appointment of an officer of Parliament without holding a vote in the House, as proposed by the NDP motion.
It is essential that all members have the opportunity to take part in the review of appointments of officers of Parliament, and that each is able to vote on these appointments, regardless of the committee’s recommendations.
Our government understands the importance of the work of officers of Parliament, and it will continue to support their full independence, as it has always done.
I would like to point out that a total of 122 people were appointed under the new process. Of these appointments, 70% are women, 12% are visible minorities, and 10% are indigenous.
In general, the selection process is based on the principles of openness, transparency, merit, and diversity.
With regard to openness, the selection process is open to all Canadians to provide them with the opportunity to make a contribution to Canada’s democratic institutions by serving as cabinet appointees.
In respect to transparency, clear information about the requirements and steps involved in the selection process are readily available to the public, in order to reach as many Canadians as possible and attract a strong and diverse field of highly qualified candidates. Decisions on appointments are found in the Privy Council Office’s orders-in-council database.
Regarding merit, the selection process is designed to identify highly qualified candidates who meet the needs of the organization and are able to perform the duties of the position to which they would be appointed. It seeks individuals who have the education, experience, knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal suitability to fill the position.
Regarding diversity, a recruitment strategy seeks to attract qualified candidates who will help to achieve gender parity and reflect Canada’s diversity in terms of linguistic, regional, and employment equity groups. These include indigenous Canadians, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and members of ethnic and cultural groups.
With few exceptions, the government seeks to appoint bilingual Canadians to the Privy Council.
Also, appointments are often subject to legal requirements other than statutory conditions. Thus, in the case of judicial appointments, these requirements must be respected.
I would like to focus a bit on the judicial appointments. In fall 2016, we introduced some important reforms to the judicial appointment process to ensure that appointments are merit-based and that the judiciary reflects the diversity of our country. Our government adopted important measures to ensure that the judicial appointment process is transparent and accountable to Canadians, in addition to promoting greater judicial diversity.
To date, the Minister of Justice has appointed a total of 72 judges, as well as 22 deputy judges across the country. We are very proud, as I am, that 60% of new appointments to the judiciary are women, which represents an increase of 35% compared to the situation under the previous government.
We are committed to continuing our efforts to strengthen our judicial system and that is why the 2017 budget proposes to create 28 new positions for judicial appointments in the federal judiciary.
The importance of ensuring an independent, merit-based appointment process, whether in the context of parliamentary or judicial nominations or appointments, is underscored by the scintillating public service contributions delivered by Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about our illustrious chief justice and conclude by returning to the broader subject of nomination procedures.
As we all know, Canada's longest-serving chief justice, appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 2000 and to the court by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1989, announced on Monday that she will be retiring effective December 15. What a tremendous nomination hers was. Chief Justice McLachlin was the first woman to hold this position and the third woman named to the Supreme Court after Bertha Wilson and Claire L’Heureux-Dubé. Justice McLachlin distinguished herself through an uncommon ability to understand issues from the perspective of those most vulnerable, and she delivered profound statements, notably in the area of indigenous law. I would like to point out some of those.
Her time at the court has been marked by a number of groundbreaking decisions, including a series of rulings that strengthened indigenous rights. Canada in 2017 is transforming before our very eyes as governments move, sometimes too slowly, to entrench the notion that governments have a duty to consult and accommodate aboriginal people before making decisions that could affect them. I know that my aboriginal constituents in Kitigan Zibi would appreciate my drawing attention to her reconciliatory leadership in concluding that aboriginal peoples were never conquered and that the doctrine of terra nullius, or empty land, never applied in Canada.
Beyond the courtroom, Justice McLachlin spoke out against the history of cultural genocide against the aboriginal people.