Filling the gaps on the Supreme Court: How it happened

  • December 06, 2016

By Susan Ursel

The Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments is an important step forward in ensuring the openness, transparency, and accountability in appointments to the highest court in the land. The Advisory Board’s mandate is to provide non-binding merit-based recommendations to the Prime Minister on Supreme Court of Canada appointments. It was constituted on Aug. 2, 2016 and consists of seven members, chaired by the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada. The other six members are drawn from our legal, academic, regulatory and judicial communities, as well as two members from outside law. It is supported in its work by the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs.

It was my great honour and responsibility to act as the Canadian Bar Association’s nominee to the Advisory Board. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the CBA for its trust in me and for this opportunity to serve my country.

For the first time in Canadian history, qualified lawyers and judges were invited to make applications for the vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada, when the Hon. Thomas Cromwell retired earlier this year. The Advisory Board considered these applications pursuant to its mandate and terms of reference and made its recommendations to the Prime Minister.

On Oct. 17, 2016, the Prime Minister announced the Honourable Malcolm Rowe,  who sat on the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador since 2001 as his nominee to the Court. Our chair, along with the Minister of Justice appeared before House of Commons’ Committee on Justice and Human Rights to discuss the selection process. The nominee himself appeared before members of the House’s Justice and Human Rights Committee and Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee – as well as representatives of the Bloc QuĂ©bĂ©cois and Green Party in a Q&A session following the Prime Minister’s announcement.  A report on the work of the Advisory Board is forthcoming and will outline in more detail the Board’s process.

It is one of the highest achievements of my career to be called to work with my wise and knowledgeable fellow Advisory Board members and the superb staff of the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs. But most of all , I believe, we have helped set a course for the process of appointments to the highest court in the land in which the citizens of Canada can take pride and have confidence.