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e-3848 (Justice)

Initiated by Étienne van Steenberghe from Montréal, Quebec

Original language of petition: French

Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled

  • The Canadian Judicial Council was created by Parliament so that Canadians could express their concerns about the conduct of federally appointed judges;
  • The fact that complaints are reviewed only by the judiciary makes it difficult to be completely impartial when considering the ethical misconduct of a colleague;
  • Some studies have called into question whether it is possible to be completely independent when reviewing complaints, given professional ties;
  • The behaviour of a judge is based on one interpretation of the code of ethics, and it would be important to apply multiple perspectives to adequately determine the admissibility of a complaint;
  • There is a lack of civic participation in the admissibility and consideration of complaints from the public regarding federally appointed judges;
  • It is impossible to appeal the decision to an independent body; and
  • It is important to ensure the quality of the judicial system.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to reform the Canadian Judicial Council by:
1. Putting in place a joint committee, with both citizen representatives and judicial representatives, responsible for studying the admissibility of complaints filed and following up;
2. Making the appointment process transparent for citizen representatives on the various committees of the Canadian Judicial Council;
3. Creating an appeal procedure for the committee responsible for reviewing complaints;
4. Planning a procedure to transparently and regularly review the work—and conduct—of each judge every five years.

Response by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Parliamentary Secretary Gary Anandasangaree

Bill C-9 proposes to reform the judicial conduct process, the process through which complaints against federally appointed judges are reviewed. Under C-9, the Canadian Judicial Council will be required to include a representative of the general public who has never been a lawyer or judge (known in this context as a “lay person”) on two key decision-making bodies charged with making findings of misconduct: review and full public hearing panels. Review panels will be primarily responsible for determining whether misconduct has occurred that is not serious enough to warrant removal and with imposing appropriate sanctions, while full hearing panels will be tasked with determining whether a judge should be removed from office and with making a recommendation on removal to the Minister of Justice.

Transparency will be safeguarded through the requirement to have the Council make public the selection criteria that it will use to name members of the general public to the roster. Bill C-9 will also require that the roster reflect the diversity of Canadians.

The Canadian Judicial Council’s practice of issuing an annual report will be codified in statute, along with what key information about the process each annual report will contain. Key aspects of process funding will also be reviewed every five years and be the subject of a public report issued after each review.

New measures proposed by Bill C-9 also include new appeal procedures for judicial conduct matters. Appeal panels will constitute the final stage of the Council’s process; their decisions will only be appealable to the Supreme Court of Canada with leave of the Court. This will make the Supreme Court itself directly responsible for providing court oversight of the process. In Canada, court oversight of all decision-making processes is a constitutional requirement.

As noted, Bill C-9 provides for comprehensive and effective mechanisms for fair and timely review of allegations of misconduct against federally appointed judges. As under the current process, anyone will be able to complain about the conduct of a federally appointed judge by writing to the Canadian Judicial Council. Routine review of a judge’s conduct in the absence of any allegations of misconduct would be not only unnecessary but inappropriate and a potential abuse of process.

The Government is committed to ensuring that Canadians have full confidence in their justice system, which necessarily entails not only respecting but furthering the constitutional principle of judicial independence. By enhancing fairness, accountability, efficiency and transparency of the judicial conduct process in a legislative framework that upholds and even furthers the process’ independence from the other branches of government, the reforms proposed by Bill C-9 are designed to do precisely that.

Open for signature
February 16, 2022, at 4:22 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
June 16, 2022, at 4:22 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie)
April 18, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01299)
Government response tabled
June 1, 2023
Photo - Alexandre Boulerice
Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie
New Democratic Party Caucus