Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise here today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Nation. Meegwetch.
I really had hoped to be allowed to ask the member for South Surrey—White Rock a question, and I will tell members why, because I think they might enjoy this.
The hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock mentioned that she used to practise law, and I used to practise law. However, the member was actually part of the governing party when we were both first elected in 2011 when she helped me with a family law case. I just wanted to put that out there.
One of my constituents had a grandchild pretty much kidnapped by a non-custodial father who took the toddler to New Hampshire. I was going crazy, as were the mother and other members of the family, trying to figure out how to get the baby back. Speaking of judges I do not like, I would mention the family court judge in New Hampshire who thought that a court order from the Supreme Court of British Columbia for full custody of the little girl was something out of a Cracker Jack box that the judge was free to ignore. It was quite the case. The hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock gave me some very good advice, which helped me get the baby back. She is now 16 and living with her proper family, and so it all came out quite well.
I want to talk about Bill C-9, which would reform the Canadian Judicial Council.
As I was speaking of a U.S. judge, it reminded me of this whole experience when I was at Dalhousie law school. We had one professor who challenged us on a case one day. We spent hours trying to figure out the rationale for the judge's decision. It made no sense to us. Obviously, the judge had ruled it, and so we had to figure out the legal reasoning, because there must be legal reasoning. It was a contract case and it made no sense. After about an hour of us tearing our hair out and putting forward solutions, our professor asked, “Is it permissible to ask if the judge was bribed?” The judge was, which is why the decision made no sense, and he was thrown off the bench for it.
This was an episode for us in real-life judicial reasoning. Sometimes the judge is bribed. Now, I do not know if this has happened in Canada, but it might happen sometime, and this is why we need a judicial review process. This particular process has been in place since 1971, and there are good and real reasons that it needs to be fixed.
There is another real-life case that I found explanatory. For the general public who may be watching this debate today, it has been a little dry, so I figured I would give a real-life example, which some members may know.
The judge is from the Quebec Superior Court, Michel Girouard who, I think 13 days before being elevated to a being a judge, was caught on video buying cocaine. This is similar to a Netflix true-crime story. Judge Girouard was challenged in 2010 when there was a complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council.
It is pretty clear that when a judge is caught on video buying cocaine from one of his clients who was then before the courts that we really do not want that particular gentleman on the court. If we want to talk about something that brings the justice system into disrepute, that would be it.
The case started in 2012 and did not end until 2021, when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear Judge Girouard's appeal. At that point, he had managed to use every possible legal avenue to fight the finding that he was not qualified to be a member of the judiciary. He fought it, and for those of us who are trained in law can imagine, there are many ways to be creative and litigious, and this gentleman was very litigious. Not only that, under the previous law that we had, the people of the province, the taxpayers, had to pay all of his legal fees, because he was a judge and it was under the judicial complaints process.
I will point out one thing that Bill C-9 would do. We obviously learned a lot from that experience, and we do not want to have someone who is challenged dead to right who should not be a member of the bench, able to keep exploiting every possible appeal and then charge the taxpayer for the legal fees. Also, there should be a way of limiting how many accesses to judicial review through the federal courts someone in this situation should have.
Bill C-9 would do something quite straightforward that I have not mentioned yet today. If a judge going through this process wants to find ways to appeal, they are all in Bill C-9. The only court that a judge who is being challenged in this way can get to is the Supreme Court of Canada, at the very end of the process. The judge cannot keep finding a judge somewhere to hear some aspect of a complaint the judge is fighting.
Just to make it clear, under this legislation, there would be complaints, a screening officer, a reviewing member, and they can create certain kinds of review panels and hearing panels together, but they are not clogging up the regular court system. The judge that is the subject of the complaint is precluded from going to any other court, but at the very end, has the right to an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The law also gets rid of the idea that the people have to pay for the legal costs of a judge. The opportunity to appeal to the courts under the new process, proposed section 158 of Bill C-9, specifically bars any legal challenges or other forms of judicial review. This is a very helpful change.
Everything about the way the bill has been constructed has been the subject of a great deal of consultation due to cases, and there have not been a lot of cases. Let us face it, in the 40 years since the Canadian Judicial Council was created, as far as I could find, and it was the same figure that the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke used, which means it is probably right, was that there were only 14 reviews in the last 40 years. This speaks to a very high level of ethics and integrity within our judiciary.
However, if someone does have a problem, there are very large stakes in getting this right. We do not want frivolous complaints from, for instance, people who have lost cases in front a judge and that disaffected previous litigant having the right to make a judge's life hell, to pursue them and subject them, in social media or wherever, to unfair charges. The judge subject to a complaint clearly has rights and has to be treated fairly. That side of getting the balance right is well reflected in Bill C-9.
The other aspect is we do not want public confidence in our justice system to be shaken by having someone serving as a judge who clearly does not meet the standards of ethical conduct, the way it is expressed in this new bill. The ones that used to be there are infirmity, misconduct, failure of due execution and, this is the new one that is relatively traditional, the judge is in a position that a reasonable, fair-minded and informed observer would consider to be incompatible with the due execution of judicial office.
In the time remaining, I want to mention that all of us here should think about the benefits of this new approach. The system we are currently under really has a binary choice: The judge is off the bench or the judge is on the bench. This new system says that maybe the judge needs some training, some counselling or a warning. There is a different approach here, again something short of the kind of misconduct that says the judge must leave the bench altogether, that allows for help.
One can imagine these are stressful positions. Mental health issues affect everyone in every profession, so there could be conduct that is questionable, but, on the other hand, overall the person is a good judge. Bill C-9 would allow that judge in that circumstance to be treated fairly, but it also protects the public and the taxpayer from judges who would do absolutely anything to stay on the bench, even if, as in the case I cited, they have been caught on video buying cocaine.
With that, I hope we can expedite the passage of this bill. It has been around even longer than some members have mentioned, because it was Bill S-5 in the last Parliament in the Senate and died on the Order Paper when the last election was called. Let us get this bill passed.