As chairman of the Judicial Advisory Committee for the Province of Prince Edward Island, with respect to appointments to the Supreme Court and the Prince Edward Island Court of Appeal, I feel compelled to respond to your recent editorial entitled “Justice denied?”
From the uninformed, there is criticism that appointments reflect political patronage, are tipped in favour of one law firm, and that the court requires more balance when it comes to the perspective of the Indigenous Mi'kmaq.
These criticisms of the process are without merit. Independence and impartiality are hallmarks of the Canadian judicial system. Unfounded criticism undermines public confidence in that system. One should step back and review the process put in place by the federal government, which produced the recent appointees to the Supreme Court.
First of all, government reintroduced three categories of applicants for the bench: highly recommended, recommended, and unable to recommend at this time. The minister of justice then reviewed the application process and put in place an application form which is extensive and requires a great deal of time and thought in its completion. An applicant must provide his or her background, legal qualifications, examples of communication and writing skills, and a composition reflecting why that person should be appointed, among other things.
The federal minister of justice then turned her attention to the Judicial Advisory Committee (JAC). It is the responsibility of that committee to review all applications for the Supreme Court and Prince Edward Island Court of Appeal; to contact references provided by the applicants; and then to meet and discuss each and every application and places each of the applicants in one of the three categories. The comments from the committee with respect to each applicant are recorded and forwarded to the minister of justice who then recommends appointments to the Governor-in-Council.
The JAC is composed of one judge from the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island or the Prince Edward Island Court of Appeal appointed by the chief justice of the province, a representative from the Law Society of Prince Edward Island, a representative from the P.E.I. branch of the Canadian Bar Association, a representative from the minister of justice and attorney general for Prince Edward Island, and three members from the public appointed by the federal minister of justice.
All positions are volunteer positions without remuneration. Those interested in being a member of the committee must also complete an application form which itself is extensive. Through that process the federal minister seeks to establish committees, which reflect diversity in the community.
In the case of Prince Edward Island, I can state without hesitation that the JAC members took their responsibility most seriously; worked diligently to get all relevant information on each candidate; and participated openly and with candor with respect to each of the applicants. The politics of an applicant was never, I repeat never, suggested or discussed by the committee. It should be noted that the committee recommended lawyers, not law firms, for positions on the bench.
Likewise, the minister of justice appointed lawyers and not law firms to fill vacancies. A lawyer’s particular area of practice does not qualify or disqualify that person from appointment. The committee is looking for the highest qualified candidates, regardless of their area of practice.
All members of the committee held the applicants who were appointed in high esteem, and the federal minister accepted and acted on the recommendations from the committee.
The criticisms endorsed by your editorial are groundless and an affront to the committee I am privileged to chair and the hard work done by each of the volunteers on that committee. The excellence of the successful applicants is reflected in each of their applications and the high esteem in which their colleagues hold them.
Upon taking the oath of office, each of the successful applicants swears to uphold and apply the law in a fair and dispassionate manner in keeping with the long tradition of judicial appointments in this province and across this country.
- Wayne D. Cheverie is chairman of the Judicial Advisory Committee for the Province of Prince Edward Island