Canadians like to talk about fixing the criminal justice system, but are we ready for a radical overhaul? Our appointed judges are forced to wade into highly politicized issues like pipelines, provincial government laws and the decriminalization of marijuana as litigants challenge the constitutionality of such laws under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Today’s judges are making decisions that should be in the domain of our elected representatives. Do we want a judge in Western Canada deciding if a pipeline project can proceed? Should an Ontario judge be responsible to determine a size of a municipal council?
An elected bench would be democratically accountable to the public. Presently the only censure against a trial judge is the Court of Appeal or the Canadian Judicial Council, both institutions that shut out the public. If judges were elected they would undoubtedly be more sensitive to the pulse of the general public and less likely to cling to the ideology of their elite liberal educations.
Elected judges would introduce a transparency to the now-cloistered ritual of judicial appointments, a practice that has been enshrined in Canadian legal history for too long.
The election of judges would also raise the public’s awareness of the importance of the judiciary and its role in society. Citizens who elect their judges may have more confidence in their judges, based on elevated levels of scrutiny from the public and the media. Certainly, there would be a greater perception of public legitimacy.
Jeffery Warren Reynolds,