Charlottetown MP Sean Casey
Physician-assisted death, an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, criminal sentencing review – these are some of the weighty files Charlottetown MP Sean Casey will be delving into in his new role in Ottawa.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Casey one of two parliamentary secretaries to Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould last week.
In an interview with The Guardian from Ottawa, Casey said he is happy to have been selected to fulfill this additional role in Trudeau’s government, but joked his position places him more in the wings than in the cabinet spotlight.
“The best way I could describe it would be along the lines of the Charlottetown Festival. The main actors in Anne of Green Gables have an understudy – that’s me,” he said.
“When the star of the show is unable to carry out their responsibilities for any reason, then there’s somebody in the background who is fully-briefed and fully-trained and ready to step in at a moment’s notice. In general terms that will be my role.”
But, as parliamentary secretaries to the justice minister, Casey and Ontario MP Bill Blair, will be working on some substantial and high profile issues over the coming months.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ministerial mandate letter to Wilson-Raybould has tasked her department to: lead a process to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada decision regarding physician-assisted death; develop an approach and mandate for an inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls in Canada and review changes to criminal sentencing reforms over the past decade, including implementing recommendations from the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith.
Legalization and regulation of marijuana and reviewing the process for Supreme Court appointments are also on the justice minister’s to-do list.
Casey agreed these are weighty files and, in some cases, rather controversial.
But he’s ready to jump right in.
“I’m absolutely energized and can’t wait to get at it,” he said.
“Dealing with issues this important is exactly what I wanted to do and I’m so grateful to have been handed the opportunity. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Casey says he will likely be especially involved in the work around physician-assisted death as well as Supreme Court appointments and criminal sentencing based on the work he did previously as third party critic for the justice portfolio when Stephen Harper was in power.
He noted many of the Harper government’s tough-on-crime reforms would likely have to be undone.
“That’s probably the one thing I’m looking forward to the most, is undoing the damage that was caused.”
Being on the government side of the House of Commons has been a bit of an adjustment for Casey, who has only ever sat as a third party MP.
When arriving at the Parliament building last week, he says he almost walked into the Opposition members’ lounge out of habit.
“It’s completely different,” he said, noting his new seat in the House of Commons now offers him a much better view of the speaker.