Interventions in Committee
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View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would like to go back briefly to the short list submitted to the Prime Minister.
According to media reports, the person selected for this appointment was the first choice of the Government of Quebec, but no one can confirm or deny this information.
Do you think it would be preferable, while of course keeping the names of the other candidates confidential, that the Government of Quebec or the advisory board have permission to confirm whether the candidate selected by the Prime Minister was their first choice?
From what I understand, we make recommendations. So the Prime Minister could very well, even if this is very rarely the case, choose someone who is not on the list of recommendations, or not choose the first choice of the advisory board, but rather the second or third person on the list.
Would it be better if the Prime Minister could confirm that he opted for the first choice on the list? This would give us the assurance that he respects the non-partisan will of the various people who submitted recommendations.
View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
I understand that we must be careful about what information we are allowed to disclose or not. However, should we not at least know whether the Prime Minister followed the recommendations of the advisory board or whether he decided to move in his own direction? Would that not be transparency?
View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
The same thing is happening right now. Everyone is trying to find out if Mr. Kasirer was the first choice and is asking questions along these lines. We are still trying to guess whether Mr. Kasirer was the first choice and whether it was respected.
View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
Fine.
I would now like to know how language abilities are assessed. Do candidates take written language tests or do they do a self-assessment of their language skills?
View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
There are currently two major justice review projects in Quebec.
The first area of reflection concerns family law reform, including the rights and obligations of common-law spouses, stepparents and grandparents. The reflection also focuses on the impact of the use of assisted reproduction techniques on family law and inheritance.
Another major area of reflection is how the justice system treats and judges sexual offences, particularly in cases where multiple charges have been laid, but only a small number have been retained for trial or court proceedings.
Among the candidates for the position of Quebec judge on the Supreme Court of Canada, have we sought expertise in these two particular areas where major reforms are being considered?
View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
Fine.
You mentioned Judge Kasirer's publications on family law, but I would like to know if he has any specific knowledge of family law and the reforms that will take place in Quebec.
View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
Very well.
The fact remains that some sexual offences are referred to civil courts, although they are criminal in nature. This is currently the case in Quebec.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
NDP (QC)
Is this addition of three judges a direct consequence of division 16 of the bill? Is it in anticipation of a large number of cases winding up in Federal Court?
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
NDP (QC)
I know we can debate the merits of division 16 and the pressure it will put on the Federal Court. I think these cases should be decided instead by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada or as part of a pre-removal risk assessment rather than by the Federal Court. But that's an entirely separate issue.
Will these three new judges focus specifically on immigration cases, refugee status claims and asylum claims, or will they simply be added to the number of available judges?
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
NDP (QC)
I have a final question. As you confirmed, division 17 is related to division 16. What will happen if division 16 doesn't carry? If, in a scenario that, for the moment, is completely hypothetical, the government decided to delete all the provisions of division 16, would it be necessary to retain division 17?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2019-04-11 13:13
Thank you very much, Chair, for having me back to the committee. I have a personal interest in this, as I'll describe, so I'm pleased that my colleague allowed me to have the floor.
I can't really do much to amplify the seriousness of this. I can tell you, though, that there are 125,000 lawyers in Canada represented by something called the Federation of Law Societies, and here's what they say. Ross Earnshaw, president, said:
When the current process was established, one goal was to eliminate any perception that partisan considerations enter into what Canadians ought to expect to be a purely merit-based appointment process. It is critical to the integrity of that process that individuals under consideration have no fear that their identity or other information will be used for any purpose other than the one intended. It is deeply concerning that such information was leaked in this instance.
This is not partisan. This is the head of every law society in Canada, the federation of all of them, saying what a travesty this is, the leak of this information.
I have been on record as praising this government for the appointment process to the Supreme Court of Canada, and I don't draw back from that. You can see that I'm not making that up; you can read the comments I've made in the media about it.
To have a former prime minister of another party chair a group of people from across the country and to give, under a non-disclosure agreement, to Mr. Nicholson, the member for Niagara Falls, the then justice critic, and me, the then NDP critic, access to all the information on the finalists, and then for us to make recommendations and have that go to the Prime Minister, and for the recommendations to be essentially followed, to me is an unbelievable process. Compare that to what happened with Mr. Justice Kavanaugh in the U.S. Supreme Court. We've a lot to be proud of. We've a lot to be proud of, and I've praised the government for that.
What has happened here is devastating to the integrity and credibility of that process. We need to investigate it. There needs to be an investigation. We stood up and asked the new Attorney General, “Sir, would you investigate this?” We did that on several occasions. My understanding of his answer, and I stand to be corrected, is, “I asked the Prime Minister's Office and they didn't do it, and I talked to my people and we didn't do it.”
Now it gets personal.
I am under a cloud of suspicion, as is my colleague from the Conservative Party. I was prepared to go to my grave with the information as to who were the finalists in this process. Indeed, there are other names that I cannot and will not mention. They are people I happen to know, who put their name forward in the confidence that it would not be leaked.
Imagine you're a sitting judge, the chief justice of the Manitoba superior court, in the case of Mr. Justice Joyal. Imagine if your colleagues know that you're really not that interested in your job because you want to go off and be in Ottawa. How does that leave you with your colleagues? There are implications of this; this isn't just politics.
I think that if the Attorney General is not going to investigate this, we have an obligation—this committee—to do that job. I resent that I'm under a cloud of suspicion. I resent that this process has left my friend Mr. Nicholson under a cloud. I would never disclose that this particular candidate was on the list. Now we know he was. There are others you don't know about and I will not disclose.
This is a serious matter, as the Federation of Law Societies has said. This committee in particular should take this seriously. How often have we said, Mr. Chair, and you've been clear on this, that we will not discuss candidates for who is going to testify on the public record about any number of issues, right? We always go in camera to talk about witnesses. This issue is ten times—a hundred times—more serious than whether we choose Mary or Bill to be a witness on a particular topic.
The integrity of how we appoint people to the highest court of our land is at issue. If the Attorney General is not going to do it—and he's made clear in the House, at least, that he is not—I say that we have an obligation to Canadians to do it. This is serious.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2019-04-11 13:30
Mr. Chair, I'd like to respond to the Liberal speaker, Mr. Ehsassi.
You started by saying the government understands this is serious. I don't see any evidence of that. What are you doing about it? I asked the justice minister. He said there's nothing here. He's not doing anything about it. If it's serious, that usually means something is done.
The suggestion that there is a parallel to the Nadon situation, yes, there was partisan politics. I regret that. The Liberals were very much an opposition part of that. Don't pretend you weren't. I was with the official opposition then. I remember it well. It doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it the correct thing to do.
When there was a leak of another sensitive matter, Mr. Goodale, dealing with the Omar Khadr leak, said it was “very, very serious”. He didn't blame journalists for reporting it, but considered it very serious and said “the individuals, whoever they are, that took it upon themselves to release confidential information in an unauthorized manner should reflect very carefully on the consequences of their behaviour for the course of justice and also for their professionalism in the roles that they are presently filling.”
This isn't about calling journalists here. I'm not interested in hearing from journalists. I don't know who suggested that. That's the first I've heard of it.
I want to hear from the official. I want to hear from people in the Department of Justice. I want to hear from people in the Prime Minister's Office. Somebody leaked it. It was either my Conservative friend, me, or an official. Whom they leaked it to is irrelevant to me. I'm not interested in hearing from journalists. That's a bit of a red herring, in my humble opinion. I don't know why we would have to turn this into politics.
To quote you, Mr. Ehsassi, you said, ”Let's just make sure that all those safeguards are in place”. I agree. What are you doing about that? What comfort are you giving to the next Mr. Justice Joyal, or someone else who has their reputation smeared as collateral damage to some other agenda?
As Mr. Cooper said, this process is not perfect, but a flawed process at this committee is certainly better than no process at all, which is what I hear you're leaving Canadians with. If you can tell me what the process is, I'd be happy, but I certainly don't know of any.
Ms. Khalid said we're here to frighten Canadians. The conclusion is the state of our rule of law is very much intact. Thank you for that conclusion, but I have no confidence in your conclusion. I have evidence that there are very serious consequences here. When the spokesperson for 125,000 lawyers agrees, I think I have reason to have those concerns.
If the leak is not unprecedented, Mr. Casey, I don't really know what that adds to the debate. Just because we made errors in the past, does that mean we shouldn't try to correct them in the future?
This is very serious. If the government wants to pretend there's nothing here and tells me that safeguards are in place, that the rule of law is just fine in Canada, that there's nothing to see here, I've been to this movie before because I used to be on this committee, and I saw how you dealt with another issue. I suppose we're going to go to a vote very much like that now. I don't look forward to it. I hope Canadians realize the gravity of what the Liberals are about to do.
Thank you, Chair.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-04-11 13:45
Thank you, Chair.
For folks watching this at home, it's really difficult to follow some of the threads and where people are going here. First of all, the idea that we would call journalists here and somehow threaten their independence is completely false. No one has ever said that we would put journalists here. Certainly throughout the previous study with the former attorney general, there were no journalists called before this committee or ever put on a witness list to be called before this committee. I don't know where that idea was pulled from. This threat to the independence of our journalists and their integrity is completely and utterly false. It has not happened at other committees and it is not happening at this committee. I don't know where the idea even comes from that it's what we're here talking about.
Also, I would like to talk about going to PROC. It is on Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Rankin personally that the Speaker will rule. This is not anything to do with this particular situation that we're talking about today. That's completely separate, so that's been brought up.
There is no evidence of new safeguards. The current Attorney General has said that there's nothing to see here, that we're not investigating and that he believes the Prime Minister. Well, Canadians don't believe the Prime Minister because he's changing his story every single, solitary day. When you're changing your story, that creates doubt. That's not the opposition creating that doubt. That is the PMO themselves through their daily injury to themselves, to be quite honest.
If you can imagine, Canadians would like better than just to take the Prime Minister at his word when we're talking about the independence of Supreme Court justice appointments. I'd also like to talk a bit about the process. This is the only process we have because there is no other process being offered. If you say that's flawed, then why is this the process you pursued under the previous attorney general's study? I don't understand that logic because there certainly was an alternative there. That alternative was to have an independent public inquiry, which we've been consistently calling for, and you said that the Prime Minister's Office has obviously decided it is not going to happen.
You've done this before; there's a pattern here. On the idea that the process here is not the correct one, I don't follow that thread at all because it's not what the justice committee has previously done. There is certainly an opportunity for it to be studied here.
On the PMO leaks—you know the behaviour of staff and the PMO around the scandal and now around this issue—that we need the PMO staff, everyone who is involved in this, to come before the committee. Quite frankly, why wouldn't they want to clear their own names? I don't understand. They've been named now in two major justice scandals, so why would they not want to come before this committee to clear their own names? Mr. Butts had that desire in the previous study, and that same opportunity should be afforded to them.
The last thing I want to say is that this is the only process we have because there's no other process being put on the table. If there's another serious process that's being put on the table, please share it with us because that's certainly what we would like to see as well.
In this particular case, there are 125,000 lawyers across the country who are saying that this needs to be investigated. I can't imagine that Liberals are going to say to those 125,000 lawyers, “We don't believe there's anything here to see.” I don't know if you've read their statement or if you've read their letter, but it's quite clear that they have deep concerns about what has happened.
To Ms. Khalid, I would just like to say that it's a false argument to say that we either study the online hate or we do this. That's completely false, and there is no comparison of those two things. When you speak about women, I'm incredibly concerned about women. I'm concerned about women in our court system. They need to know that they're sitting in front of independently selected judges and that there are quality people who are applying because they're not afraid of having their names smeared. That's the way we can help women, and that's the way we can stand up for human rights in our country: by protecting the independence of our judicial system.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you for being here.
Clause 305 deals with the absence or incapacity of the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal. In fact, it adds several new paragraphs.
Did the Act not already have this type of mechanism for replacing, on an interim basis, the Chief Justice during an absence?
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
NDP (QC)
Okay.
It is therefore an amendment in relation to the new position of Associate Chief Justice.
I have another jurilinguistic question.
The French version of clause 297 reads as follows: “s’agissant du juge en chef et du juge en chef adjoint de la Cour fédérale : 344 400 $”. Yet, the English version indicates that it is $344,400 “each”. 
Is there a reason why the term “chacun” does not appear in the French version? This should not cause confusion.
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