Thank you, Mr. Chair.
You will recall that, on Thursday, almost two weeks ago, following a motion moved by Mr. Casey regarding the Supreme Court's appointment process, I proposed another motion. I gave the government the benefit of the doubt. I was twice told by the committee's government members that they might support my motion. So I did this in good faith, and I am sure everyone has done the same and invested the necessary efforts.
However, I will use the few minutes I have to plead with the Conservative members on this committee. They are Dan Albas, Blaine Calkins, David Wilks, Robert Goguen, Bob Dechert and our chair, Mike Wallace. To my knowledge, we make our own decisions. The motion I put forward reads as follows:
That the Committee undertake a study on the best transparent process for the nomination of judges in all courts under federal jurisdiction, including the Supreme Court of Canada; and that the Committee reports its findings to the House.
If I may say so, I think that this is a common-sense motion. I'm not saying that because I moved it, but because I think it is non-partisan. It does not prejudge the decision the committee may make following its consideration and imposes no time pressure.
I am very aware of the government's agenda and the bills before this committee. Nevertheless, this is a relevant study in light of what we have experienced since 2011, when I became a member of this Parliament. A number of appointments have been made to the Supreme Court since then. However, there are many vacant positions in the superior courts of various provinces. The staffing of those positions is already included in the budget. I think it is time to do something about this.
In Quebec, we lived with Bastarache Commission in a specific context. We have reviewed the way appointments are made to try to be as non-partisan as possible, in order to ensure to do exactly what the Minister of Justice constantly answers when I ask him about this during House of Commons question periods. I also think that this is truly at the forefront of the accessibility to the justice system issue. The impression Canadians have of justice and the actual justice system is also something to consider. There is often nothing worse than impressions and rumours that do not reflect reality.
When people start to believe that their justice system is somewhat partisan—whether or not that is true—it may be time to stop and reconsider. Studies were carried out on this issue over 10 years ago. Attempts were made to operate in a certain way, but those attempts were interrupted in the middle of the process. All sorts of suggestions have been made, but even specialists do not agree on those issues.
I have no preconceived ideas. Of course, I have some ideas, but I am still hoping that we will someday manage to find a system that, as the minister says, will bring together the most qualified people—in other words, a system where people would not have the slightest doubt about the individual hearing their case.
As all lawyers around this table know, there is nothing more frustrating than having to tell your client, in court, that the day will be difficult because of anything having to do with the judge. We should at least be able to count on complete judicial impartiality. That would actually be good for judges, as well, since they are the primary targets of any public criticisms.
The message I would like to send through this motion is that it is time to at least commit to beginning the process. Although the Department of Justice and the Minister of Justice do not agree, and neither does the Prime Minister, as we often say, committees are masters of their responsibilities, their own procedure and their files.
At some point, we have to stand behind our comments. I think that, if we are independent, despite the Conservative majority, we have to have the courage of our convictions when we believe in something. I think this study is necessary. Some specialists are already considering this, and all sorts of seminars are being held.
It seems to me that, as our constituents' leaders and representatives, we should not be trailing behind all the constitutional experts, lawyers and commentators of the country. We should rather be at the forefront and should undertake this study. I dare hope that my colleagues will vote on the basis of their own convictions and acknowledge the common sense underlying this motion.
We may not even have the time to carry out the study, given all the files we have to consider. However, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights should at least commit to undertake this study, whenever it can find the time, or to commission specialists to carry it out, so that people from all backgrounds, across the country, can submit briefs to us on this issue. I think that goes without saying.
We all know that this is the Governor in Council's prerogative. However, all party leaders have practically committed to make changes and to make the process as open and transparent as possible. However, we see that this has not really happened. That may be the best method, but a study on the topic should at least be carried out again.
This is the motion I am putting forward.