Fill judicial vacancies

  • June 09, 2023

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Judicial Issues Subcommittee of the Canadian Bar Association expresses strong support for recent concerns expressed by Chief Justice Richard Wagner over the high number of judicial vacancies.

Some courts in Canada have as much as 10 to 15 percent of their judicial positions vacant, the letter says, adding that “the latest report of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs shows 88 unfilled vacancies affecting all provinces and one territory.”

In 2016, then-CBA President René J. Basque, K.C. wrote to the Minister of Justice to echo then-Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin’s concerns that civil justice delays caused by judicial vacancies would undermine public confidence in our justice system. Basque recommended “urgent action to deal with judicial vacancies,” which he described as “an acute access to justice problem.”

There has not been progress in remedying that situation in the intervening years.

The Subcommittee acknowledges and applauds the more than 600 judges who have been appointed to federal office since 2015. “However, this has not solved the gap in judicial complements. Not only are judicial positions left vacant, but the Judicial Advisory Committees (JAC) that screen and recommend candidates for office are not operating at full capacity,” noting six that are not currently filled.

“There is no shortage of well qualified candidates for judicial office,” the letter states. “This deep pool of talent should allow the gap in judicial vacancies to be remedied in a timely fashion.”