Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will make a statement, then the Right Honourable Kim Campbell will speak, and then I will speak again. Afterwards, we will answer your questions together.
Mr. Chairman, Right Honourable Kim Campbell, members of the committee and other parliamentarians in the room, good morning. I also note the presence of the Honourable Irwin Cotler, whom I thank for being here.
First and foremost, we recognize that we are on traditional unceded Algonquin lands. It is very important to underline this fact today.
I would like to thank the chair for convening this extraordinary meeting of the committee. I also thank all honourable members for being here today. I recognize, of course, that many of them have changed their summer plans to be with us. I am very grateful to them.
As the chair has just pointed out, this is the third time our government has implemented its reformed process for appointing judges to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The modifications we introduced in 2016 are designed to ensure greater openness, transparency and accountability in the appointments process. Many of you here today are seasoned participants, having been part of the 2016 and 2017 processes that resulted in the appointments respectively of justices Rowe and Martin. Madam Campbell was the chair of those committees as well.
As you can imagine, I have followed these processes with great interest and attention. It is now a great honour and privilege for me to participate more directly in the process to fill the position that will become vacant on September 15, 2019, following the retirement of Justice Clément Gascon.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank Justice Gascon for his contribution and to acknowledge the courage he has shown throughout his career.
I have the pleasure of appearing today with the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, who joins us via video conference from Vancouver. Ms. Campbell previously served as the chairperson of the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments. Ms. Campbell also served as the chairperson of the current advisory board that was adapted to ensure the appointment of a judge properly grounded in the legal experience of Quebec and its legal tradition. Ms. Campbell's extensive experience with the selection process has been an invaluable resource in this process. We are grateful for her continued dedication to serving Canadians in this role and we say thank you.
In a few moments, I will turn things over to Ms. Campbell to describe the specific work the advisory board undertook in order to produce the short list of candidates for the Prime Minister's consideration. Before doing so, however, I would like to briefly outline the unique aspects of the current process to fill this Quebec seat on the court.
According to the Supreme Court Act, three seats on the court are reserved for lawyers from Quebec. Under sections 5 and 6 of the act, only judges of the Court of Appeal or the Superior Court of Quebec, or those who have been members in good standing of the Barreau du Québec for at least 10 years, may be appointed.
As specified by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Reference re Supreme Court Act, ss. 5 and 6, these appointment criteria are intended to ensure that Quebec's unique legal traditions are well represented on the court. These criteria make it possible not only to ensure that the court is able to handle civil law cases, but also to ensure its legitimacy in the eyes of the Quebec population.
That is why the qualifications and evaluation criteria stipulate that a "deep knowledge of the civil law tradition is essential for all candidates to the three Quebec seats".
In addition, on May 15, 2019, the Prime Minister announced a memorandum of understanding between our government and that of Quebec. This memorandum of understanding sets out the process for filling the position that will become vacant following Justice Gascon's retirement. As with the process for seats that do not belong to Quebec, this process is based primarily on the work of the independent and impartial advisory board, which is responsible for assessing nominations and developing a short list of three to five names to recommend to the Prime Minister.
The composition of the advisory board has been adjusted to accurately reflect the reality of Quebec, its legal practices and its civil law tradition.
As mentioned, the advisory board was chaired by Ms. Campbell and included another member whom, as Federal Minister of Justice, I had been asked to appoint. The other six members were selected in such a way as to ensure adequate representation with respect to Quebec and civil law. These six other members were appointed by the Quebec Minister of Justice, the Barreau du Québec, the Quebec Division of the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Judicial Council and the Deans of the Quebec Law Faculties and the Civil Law Section of the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa.
The selected members, all of whom are functionally bilingual, represented a distinguished set of individuals who undertook their important responsibilities with great care and dedication. I would like to thank them, on behalf of the Prime Minister and our government, for their exceptional service throughout this process.
They did a better job than those working the lights today.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Hon. David Lametti: The core mandate of the advisory board was to assess candidates against the published assessment criteria and to submit to the Prime Minister the names of three to five qualified and functionally bilingual candidates.
In accordance with the agreement with the Government of Quebec, after receiving the short list provided by the advisory board, I forwarded it to the Quebec Minister of Justice. We then conducted our own separate confidential consultations on the preselected applications.
For my part, I consulted with the Chief Justice of Canada, a number of my cabinet colleagues, the opposition justice critics, members of your committee and the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, among others. The Quebec Minister of Justice conducted her own consultations, including with the Chief Justice of Quebec, before reporting her findings to the Premier of Quebec. After the conclusion of this consultation period, the Premier of Quebec and I submitted our respective recommendations to the Prime Minister of Canada to inform his choice as to whom to appoint.
Before turning the floor over to Ms. Campbell, I would like to speak briefly about the importance of confidentiality in this process, given the concerns that have rightly been raised about improper disclosures surrounding the 2017 selection process.
As I have said previously, the disclosure of confidential information regarding candidates for judicial appointments is unacceptable. I want to stress that I took strict measures to ensure that confidentiality was respected. This process has implemented strict confidentiality measures throughout. The terms of reference for the advisory board contain provisions specifically designed to ensure that the privacy interests of all candidates are respected. This includes a requirement that advisory board members sign a confidentiality agreement prior to their appointment. In addition, the agreement with Quebec explicitly states that the sharing of, and consultations on, the short list are to be conducted in a confidential manner.
In terms of next steps in the process, in addition to the advisory board's critical contribution in developing the short list, today's hearing is another important element. It provides an opportunity for all of you, as parliamentarians, to hear from and question the government regarding the selection process and our choice of nominee. Parliamentarians, and Canadians more broadly, will have the opportunity to become acquainted with the nominee through the question and answer session that has been scheduled for this afternoon.
Having provided this context, I would now look to Ms. Campbell to describe the work that the advisory board undertook in fulfilling its mandate. I will then say a few words about the Prime Minister's nominee to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Honourable Nicholas Kasirer.