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Results: 1 - 15 of 66
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2015-02-20 11:57 [p.11473]
Mr. Speaker, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal has six judges. At present, there are three anglophone and two francophone judges. The Association des juristes d'expression française du Nouveau-Brunswick is justified in asking that the next judge be a francophone, so that both communities have equal representation.
Will the minister undertake to appoint a francophone to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal and promise not to pick from the list of Conservative organizers, as they did with Justice Richard Bell?
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2014-05-01 18:07 [p.4851]
Mr. Speaker, I stand before my hon. colleagues tonight to close the second hour of debate on Bill C-208, my bill that aims to make English-French bilingualism a new requirement for judges appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
I also want to thank my NDP colleagues who have spoken tonight and in the first hour and who support my bill. I would also like to thank the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville and the Liberals who supported my bill in 2008, in 2010 and again today.
Everyone can see that the Conservatives are the only ones saying no.
This is my third attempt to get this bill through, and I hope that all my colleagues on the other side of the House will vote in favour of the bilingualism requirement for Supreme Court judges when we vote on May 7.
In recent weeks, I have had the opportunity to visit a few universities and a few communities to talk about Bill C-208. I went to Sudbury and had the opportunity to present my bill to students at Laurentian University. I also presented my bill to students in the faculty of law at the Université de Moncton and law students at the University of Ottawa.
People in my riding support my bill enthusiastically. Everywhere I went, people said that the bilingualism of Supreme Court judges was important for the equality of both official languages and equality in the access to justice.
Let me now tell the House about the support I have received from various stakeholders in the fields of official languages and justice.
In his letter of support for Bill C-208, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, said:
Since 2008, I supported the principle that all Supreme Court justices should be bilingual, and that is still my opinion. I believe, out of respect for all Canadians, that it is a matter of ensuring that they are all served by judges of the highest distinction and greatest ability, who can hear and understand a case in either official language
The Barreau du Québec also supported my bill and said that:
[It] has always believed that functional bilingualism should be among a Supreme Court judge's required skills in order to ensure equal access to justice...
The Quebec Community Groups Network also supports this important bill. Its letter of support for Bill C-208, it stated that the QCGN supports the requirement that Supreme Court Justices be capable of executing their responsibilities in both official languages without the aid of an interpreter on the same basis. In addition, the letter stated that the QCGN believes that Bill C-208 strengthens the principle of the rule of law upon which our society is based.
The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, or the FCFA, and its members have also shown their support for Bill C-208. In its letter of support, the FCFA indicated:
...we find it completely unacceptable that, in this day and age, French-speaking Canadians still cannot be heard and understood by all of the judges who sit on the highest court in our country without the assistance of an interpreter.
I would like to thank all the people, groups and associations who shared with me their support for the important issue of the bilingualism of Supreme Court judges.
I would like to remind hon. members of the importance of my bill. This is a matter of access to justice. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, and it is very important for its judges to be able to understand both official languages without the help of an interpreter.
Second, having bilingual Supreme Court judges would ensure the equality of both the official languages. We have to remember that the Supreme Court has recognized the equality of French and English.
In conclusion, I urge all my colleagues to vote in favour of my Bill C-208.
We must protect the equality of our two official languages and equal access to justice. In particular, I am calling on the Conservative members from Quebec and the members who have francophone communities in their ridings, such as the member for Madawaska—Restigouche, the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, and the member for Saint Boniface, who is the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, to ask their Conservative colleagues to support my bill, which seeks to ensure that Supreme Court judges are bilingual. It is a matter of justice and equality.
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2014-02-28 13:29 [p.3378]
moved that Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise for the third time in the House to speak to Bill C-208, which would require Supreme Court justices to be bilingual so that they can respond to Canadian citizens.
Thirteen years ago, on February 28, two hours before I made a speech in the House of Commons about taxes on mechanics' tools, I was thinking that my grandson Jonathan, who was born two days later, might one day use these tools if he decided to become a mechanic.
Today, as I wish Jonathan a happy birthday, I hope that my other grandson, Alexandre Matis, and my granddaughter, Lily Ève, will be able to be heard in the official language of their choice, which is French, if they ever need to go to the Supreme Court.
Today, my New Democrat colleagues and I are back with my Bill C-208, which would make being bilingual in French and English a new condition for appointing justices to the Supreme Court of Canada.
This is my third attempt to get this initiative passed. In 2010, this bill, known at the time as Bill C-232, was passed by the House of Commons. To my great disappointment, the Conservative senators used their majority in the Senate to block the bill. The bill then died on the order paper when the 2011 election was called.
The Conservatives have repeatedly shown their contempt for official languages by appointing two unilingual anglophone justices to the Supreme Court and by appointing a unilingual auditor general.
The NDP thinks that there is another way to do things. The NDP is the only party that is proposing concrete measures to promote and protect our official languages. Thanks to the NDP, the House recently passed Bill C-419, which corrects the Conservatives' mistake by ensuring that officers of Parliament will now have to be bilingual when they are appointed. It is time for us to make understanding both official languages an essential condition of being appointed to the Supreme Court.
I would like to speak to the importance of this bill. This is a question of access to justice. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, and it is very important that the justices be able to understand both official languages without the help of an interpreter. I have the utmost respect for the work of interpreters, but we know that interpretation has its limits. Numerous lawyers have noticed errors and omissions in the interpretation of their arguments before the Supreme Court.
I am thinking, in particular, about Michel Doucet, a law professor at the Université de Moncton, the former dean of the law faculty at the university and a language rights expert. He spoke to the issue when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages:
In the week after I had argued a case before the Supreme Court, I had an opportunity to hear the English version of my arguments on CPAC, and I understood why I had lost the case five to four. The translation did not allow me to understand my own words. I wonder how justices can fully understand the matter at hand when they have to go through translation in which significant aspects of a submission are missing. When you win 9:0, there is no problem, but when you lose 5 to 4, you automatically wonder whether you should not have argued in English.
There are many examples of questionable interpretation at the Supreme Court. A lawyer arguing his case before the court mentioned a Monsieur Saint-Coeur and the interpreter rendered it as “Mr. Five O'clock”. Even the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, has weighed in on the importance of understanding the arguments presented without the help of an intermediary.
In June 2009, he told members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights:
Given the complexity and the extreme importance of the cases heard by this court, judges should be able to hear arguments presented to them without using an interpreter to understand nuanced and complex legal arguments.
According to Sébastien Grammond, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, interpretation may lead to “loss of precision which, in some cases, can even involve the omission of certain sentences”.
This loss of precision can also be found in the documents submitted by the parties to the proceedings. These documents are not translated by the court. Unilingual judges must rely on the briefs prepared by court clerks, who are often young lawyers with little legal experience.
The presence of unilingual judges on the bench of the Supreme Court also poses a problem during closed-door deliberations without an interpreter. Francophone judges must always express their opinions, ideas and knowledge in their second language. Therefore, there is a risk that they will be much less precise.
If the justices can function in both official languages, everyone can work in the language of their choice. The bilingualism of judges is therefore a question of the equality of francophones and anglophones in terms of access to justice.
The bilingualism of Supreme Court justices ensures the equality of both official languages.
We have to remember that the Supreme Court has recognized the equality of French and English.
Laws are drafted in both official languages. Both versions have the same weight and neither one takes precedence over the other.
Our language duality is part of our Canadian identity. We have to embrace it.
Is there substantive equality when a francophone appears before the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court is not there to reward ambitious lawyers or judges. It is there to dispense justice for all Canadians.
Serving on the Supreme Court is not a right, but having fair access to justice is a right. Remember that the court is there to serve Canadians, not the interests of the judge.
The issue of requiring Supreme Court judges to be bilingual has been debated for several years.
I think it is wrong for francophones to have to make themselves understood by unilingual judges through the filter of interpretation, especially before the highest court in the land.
If Canada's two official languages are to be truly equal, it is important that bilingualism be an essential requirement when judges are appointed to the Supreme Court.
Lastly, my bill would ensure that the Supreme Court can serve all Canadians equally, whether their mother tongue is English or French.
The Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, who is highly respected by all Canadians, has said several times that he supports requiring Supreme Court judges to be bilingual.
The Barreau du Québec has supported this bill for years now:
The Barreau has always believed that functional bilingualism should be among a Supreme Court judge's required skills in order to ensure equal access to justice, and it deplores that even today federal legislation has no provisions requiring that the nine Supreme Court judges be proficient in both official languages.
Many stakeholders in the official languages community support my bill, particularly the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne and its members:
The FCFA believes that all citizens have a right to be heard and understood before the highest court of Canada in their official language of choice, without the assistance of an interpreter.
Lastly, various linguistic rights experts have spoken out in favour of my bill, including Sébastien Grammond, Dean of Civil Law at the University of Ottawa, Gérard Lévesque, a very well-known lawyer for language rights, and Serge Rousselle and Michel Doucet, both law professors at the Université de Moncton.
Let me remind members that the NDP is the only party that proposes concrete measures to advance Canada's linguistic duality.
Bill C-419 on the mandatory bilingualism of officers of Parliament, introduced by my colleague, was passed by the House of Commons in 2013.
Let us not forget that the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre remained open thanks to the pressure that my NDP colleagues and I put on the Conservative government, which intended to close this centre, the only French-language marine rescue centre in Canada.
The Conservative government has not shown any respect toward our official languages. I want to remind the House that it is the Prime Minister who appointed two unilingual judges to the Supreme Court. It is also the Conservative government that appointed a unilingual Auditor General to Parliament. Even the minister responsible for official languages is not in favour of my bill. Her riding of Saint Boniface, in Manitoba, includes thousands of francophones. What an insult to that community.
I also want to remind the members opposite that this former bill, Bill C-232, was passed by the House of Commons in 2010.
All the Conservative members voted against that bill, even the members from Quebec and those who have francophone communities in their ridings, such as the members for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and Madawaska—Restigouche. Despite the opposition of the Conservative members, Bill C-232 was passed by the House of Commons; however, the unelected Conservative senators, including a number of francophones, held up the bill until the 2011 election was called.
The majority of the members in the House of Commons, who were elected by Canadians, voted in favour of this bill, but the unelected senators defeated the bill. Do not try to tell me that the Senate stands up for linguistic minorities.
In closing, I ask the members of all the parties to support this bill so that it can move along and be considered at the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights. We must protect the equality of our two official languages and equal access to justice.
In particular, I am calling on the Conservative members from Quebec and the members who have francophone communities in their ridings, such as the members for Madawaska—Restigouche, Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, and Saint Boniface, to pressure their colleagues to support my bill, which seeks to ensure that the Supreme Court judges are bilingual.
If the Conservatives thought that bilingualism was necessary for becoming an officer of Parliament, then there is no reason why they should not do the same for the judges who sit on the benches of the highest court in the land.
The bill is a matter of justice and equality.
It is a matter of justice and equality.
Canadians have the right—it is more than just a privilege—to appear before a judge at the Federal Court of Canada and be heard and understood in the language of their choice. The same applies to the Federal Court of Appeal. It should also apply to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country.
I was at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights this week, and I asked officials from the Department of Justice whether there are enough bilingual judges in each province. If Canadians were to read the committee minutes, they would see that the response was yes. I then asked whether there are a lot of judges, and they said that there are enough.
I am waiting to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice tell us that the pool is not big enough, even though officials from his own department clearly told us in committee that it is a big pool. They told us that there are enough bilingual judges in every province.
I hope that the Conservatives will support my bill and bilingualism in Canada.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed the hon. member's speech.
He said he heard in committee that there are plenty of bilingual judges in every Canadian province. We know that Supreme Court justices are selected on the basis of merit and legal excellence. The criteria used to assess them are knowledge of the law, judgment, work habits, ability to write and communicate, honesty, fairness, concern for fairness and social conscience.
I would like to know whether my hon. colleague has counted the number of bilingual judges in each province and whether he has assessed them against these criteria.
Simply being a bilingual judge does not necessarily mean that one meets all of the criteria and can sit on the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada.
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2014-02-28 13:45 [p.3380]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe for his question.
Studies have been done, and the Commissioner of Official Languages, whom all Canadians respect, also ordered his own office to conduct a study. The pool of bilingual judges is large. That is why I asked a question during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during which the most senior Department of Justice officials confirmed that there were plenty. Anyone who wants to be a Federal Court judge has to fulfill the same criteria. There are criteria to be met. My Conservative colleague just talked about those criteria.
The pool of judges for the Supreme Court includes judges who are already in superior courts, which means they meet all of the criteria. It would never occur to me that the government, which appoints Supreme Court justices, does not abide by those criteria. Moreover, the Department of Justice says there are plenty. I asked the witness to repeat that two or three times because I could not believe my ears. This contradicts the Conservatives' argument. My colleague was at that meeting, so he knows the answers given by the Department of Justice.
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2014-02-28 13:48 [p.3381]
Mr. Speaker, I really would not be jealous if the government introduced a bill requiring Supreme Court justices to be bilingual.
I agree with the member that it should be a government initiative, but I would like to repeat one thing. According to the bill introduced by Denis Coderre, who is now the mayor of Montreal, a francophone could be heard in French at the Supreme Court. The problem with Mr. Coderre's bill was that francophones would have been able to address only seven Supreme Court justices, whereas anglophones would have been able to address nine judges. That is why Denis Coderre withdrew his bill in favour of mine. With my bill, all Supreme Court justices must be bilingual.
My bill is clear. I am not asking that the current Supreme Court justices be shown the door. They were appointed to this position and can remain until they reach 75 or retire. The bill applies to future appointments.
I want Canadians to clearly understand that the bill is about future appointments of Supreme Court justices. It would solve a problem that should have been solved 25 years ago, when the Judges Act was passed.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the second reading of Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages), put forward by the member for Acadie—Bathurst.
The bill would amend the Supreme Court Act. It would introduce a new requirement for judges appointed to the Supreme Court to understand English and French without the assistance of an interpreter.
The English and French languages have shaped Canadian society. Both linguistic communities are at the heart of our national identity.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of supporting the development of its official languages minority communities. To that end, in June 2008 the government announced the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013, a government-wide commitment with a budget of $1.1 billion, based on two pillars: the participation of all in linguistic duality and the support of official languages minority communities in the priority sectors of justice, health, immigration, economic development, and arts and culture.
This initiative has been followed by the Roadmap for Canada's Official Languages 2013-2018: Education, Immigration, Communities, which provides a renewed investment of $1.1 billion over five years, with clear priorities to protect, celebrate, and strengthen our official languages across Canada. One of the road map initiatives under the education component is an investment in training, networks, and access to justice.
I first want to say that our government is strongly committed to enhancing the vitality of English and French linguistic minorities in Canada and fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society
I also want to assure the House that our government is committed to maintaining the tradition of excellence that is the hallmark of the judicial appointment process, so that Canadians continue to trust and respect our judicial system.
Canadians take pride in the judicial system and in the steps taken to ensure citizens have access to justice in either official language. The Supreme Court of Canada is a model of institutional bilingualism, which reflects the intent of Parliament that our national institutions be bilingual.
The government remains committed to preserving a fair, unbiased legal system. To that end, we intend to continue to be guided by the principles of merit and legal excellence in the selection and appointment of judges to the superior courts of the provinces, the federal courts and the Supreme Court.
To date, our government has appointed 400 judges to various Canadian courts. We are proud of having appointed these highly competent judges and lawyers. Our appointments embody the principles of merit and legal excellence that will continue to guide our decisions in the appointment of judges.
Merit and legal excellence are the foundation of the judge appointment process. The other criteria are knowledge of the law, judgment, work habits, ability to write and communicate, honesty, integrity, a concern for fairness and a social conscience.
Bilingualism is another factor we consider. Our government can take candidates' linguistic abilities into account to ensure that Canadians have access to justice in both official languages. We are determined to create a federal legal system that provides equal access to justice in both official languages.
I would also like to point out that, before each appointment, we consult the chief justice of the court in question to find out the court's needs, including its need for specific language skills. The chief justice is in an ideal position to understand the needs of the communities the court serves and to identify specific needs when positions become available. Our government also listens to the advice of various expert groups and individuals about factors to consider when filling vacancies.
To ensure that we have an ample and balanced pool of bilingual candidates for the bench, our government asks associations of lawyers and francophone communities to identify and encourage people with the necessary skills to apply. We also ask them to inform the minister about these people.
We are not denying the importance of language skills, particularly when a specific need is identified. However, merit remains the primary and most important factor that must be taken into account in appointing judges.
First and foremost, our government is determined to appoint the best-qualified individuals. We will continue to appoint competent and dedicated people, and adhere to the principle of gender equality, cultural diversity and bilingualism.
The Supreme Court of Canada plays a fundamental role in our democratic society, in particular as the ultimate guardian of the values entrenched in the Constitution.
It is therefore essential for its members to be selected from among the most distinguished and most competent of jurists. That is why when filling vacancies in the court, we take great care to select the best candidates, both in terms of knowledge and experience and of social conscience.
The judges appointed to the Supreme Court for the past 130 years have been among the best justices the court could have had. The qualities we look for in a candidate include outstanding intellectual capacity, superior ability in judgment writing, the capacity for innovative thinking on emerging legal issues, and a demonstrated sensitivity to the diverse values enshrined in the Constitution. All these qualities go hand in hand with regional representation. It is important that the Supreme Court represent all Canadians. That is why we must take this important factor into consideration.
This is how Peter Hogg, a renowned constitutional scholar, described the professional and personal qualities that a Supreme Court of Canada justice must have:
A judge has to be able to resolve difficult legal issues, not just by virtue of technical legal skills, but also with wisdom, fairness, and compassion.
A judge must have the energy and discipline to diligently study the materials that are filed in every appeal.
A judge must be able to maintain an open mind on every appeal until he or she has read all of the pertinent material and heard from counsel on both sides.
A judge must always treat the counsel and the litigants who appear before him or her with patience and courtesy.
A judge must be able to write opinions that are well written and well reasoned.
...a judge must be able to work cooperatively with eight colleagues to help produce agreement on unanimous or majority decisions and to do his or her share of the writing.
Whereas the Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in Canada, it is essential for our government to be able to select qualified jurists from all regions of the country when appointing justices to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Passing Bill C-208 would mean giving greater importance to linguistic considerations than to merit, by reducing the pool of otherwise highly qualified candidates, particularly from parts of the country where there may be fewer judges who are capable of handling cases in both official languages.
Indeed, the Supreme Court already respects the right of all Canadians to be heard and understood in the language of their choice. All Supreme Court services are provided in English and French, and all communication already takes place in both official languages.
In addition, anyone who has to make written submissions to the Supreme Court may do so in either English or French. A large majority of the judges currently sitting on the Supreme Court are proficient in both official languages and are perfectly capable of handling cases in either language without the use of simultaneous interpretation.
Supreme Court judges also have the option of taking language training; indeed, they are encouraged to do so. High-level and very high-quality translation and interpretation services are provided for Supreme Court hearings. Furthermore, all judges are supported by at least one bilingual law clerk.
The current composition requirements of the Supreme Court Act, together with the historical practice of regional representation, allow us to preserve our firm commitment to bilingualism.
The extraordinary expertise and commitment of the current Supreme Court judges clearly demonstrate just how seriously our government takes these appointments, as did previous governments.
Bilingualism is an important factor to consider in the selection of Supreme Court judges. However, this factor must not overshadow the merit and excellence of judges from a legal standpoint, or the importance of regional representation.
For all of those reasons I just mentioned, we cannot support Bill C-208 in its current form.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak in support of clauses 471 and 472 of the economic action plan 2013, no. 2, which would add declaratory provisions to the Supreme Court Act. These declaratory provisions have been introduced to clarify the criteria for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada. In particular, the intent of these provisions is to clarify that an individual who was at any time a barrister or advocate of at least 10 years standing at the bar of a province would be eligible for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada. This would remove any doubt regarding the eligibility of accomplished judges of Canada's Federal Court for appointment to the Supreme Court.
Normally, the purpose of legislative amendments is to enact new provisions or to amend existing provisions to change the outcome of the provisions they replace or amend.
By their very nature, the proposed declaratory provisions will specify the correct interpretation of the law since its enactment. Basically, the wording reinforces the meaning of this law and makes it easier to understand.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently explained the impact of these declaratory provisions. In its 2013 ruling in Régie des rentes du Québec v. Canada Bread Company Ltd., the court stated the following:
The interpretation imposed by a declaratory provision stretches back in time to the date when the legislation it purports to interpret first came into force, with the effect that the legislation in question is deemed to have always included this provision. Thus, the interpretation so declared is taken to have always been the law...
In accordance with the purpose of a declaratory provision, clauses 471 and 472 of the bill confirm the fundamental requirement that judges must fulfill to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. According to the current wording, these provisions specify that, the clauses authorize Federal Court justices to be appointed to vacant positions representing Quebec in the Supreme Court of Canada, provided that they have at least 10 years standing as members of the Barreau du Québec.
Consequently, former and current members of the Barreau du Québec will be treated in the same manner as former and current members of the bar of any province. The purpose is to have uniformity and equality for all provincial bars.
The Government of Canada is of the view that there is no doubt that Federal Court judges are eligible to fill any vacancy on the Supreme Court. This view is shared by former Supreme Court justices, the Hon. Ian Binnie and the Hon. Louise Charron, as well as the noted constitutional expert, Professor Peter Hogg.
During its study of clauses 471 and 472, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights also heard evidence from Professor Benoît Pelletier, who was supportive of the government's position. The committee of the other place heard from the former Supreme Court justice, the Hon. Michel Bastarache, who also agreed with the government's interpretation.
Former Quebec minister of intergovernmental affairs and constitutional expert Benoît Pelletier, was very clear about the interpretation:
The interpretation that I believe prevails, or should prevail, when examining the spirit of the provision, is that, essentially, it is sufficient to have been a member of the bar for 10 years. But, one might not be a member today. It would not make sense to interpret the Supreme Court Act as disqualifying from the outset all justices of the Federal Court. It is an interpretation which, in my opinion, does not hold up.
It should be no surprise that so many leading experts agree with the government's view. As the Minister of Justice noted in his remarks to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights regarding these very provisions, Federal Court experience is a strong asset for any candidate to the Supreme Court precisely because the Supreme Court regularly hears appeals from decisions of the Federal Court.
As the members of the House are well aware, judges of the Federal Court have served and continue to serve with distinction on the Supreme Court.
Furthermore, the Honourable Robert Décary, former Federal Court of Appeal justice, recently said, in the October 25, 2013 edition of La Presse, that by suggesting that Federal Court justices with civil law training do not have the civil experience required by section 6, does not take into account the increasing interdependence of Quebec, Canadian and international law.
I know that none of the Federal Court judges who have been appointed to the Supreme Court to date were appointed as members from the courts of Quebec. However, Federal Court judges ought not to be treated differently and excluded from consideration for appointment to the Supreme Court simply because after their many years of practising law in Quebec, they joined the Federal Court bench.
In keeping with the principle of bijuralism, the Federal Court justices must regularly interpret the Civil Code of Quebec when they apply federal laws in areas such as tax, copyright and bankruptcy in deciding matters that arise from Quebec.
However, despite the weight of expert opinion, some have continued to question the eligibility of Federal Court judges for appointment to the Supreme Court, particularly as members of the court from Quebec. In order to resolve this critical issue as soon as possible, the government has referred the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In the meantime, Bill C-4 was determined to be the quickest method of clarifying the Supreme Court Act to guarantee that Federal Court judges can be considered in the process of filling upcoming Supreme Court vacancies, the first of which will arise next year. These declaratory provisions clarify, without making substantive changes to the law, that individuals with at least 10 years at any bar in Canada, including the Quebec bar, at any time during their career would be eligible to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada. Enacting these provisions would ensure that the Supreme Court would have the benefit of Parliament's declared intent of sections 5 and 6 of the Supreme Court Act when it renders its advisory opinion on these reference questions that have been put to it.
For these reasons, I am opposed to the amendment to delete clauses 471 and 472 of Bill C-4.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, our government will defend the right of long-standing members of the Barreau du Québec to sit on the highest court in the country.
Members of the Barreau du Québec should have the same rights as lawyers from other provinces. That is why we have taken steps to confirm the eligibility criteria for Supreme Court justices. We are eager to resolve this issue and to see Justice Nadon, a highly qualified individual, take his seat in the court.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I could not be more clear: we will defend the right of Quebeckers on the Federal Court bench to also sit in Canada's highest court.
The opinion of former Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie, which was also endorsed by former Supreme Court justice Louise Charron and by noted constitutional law expert Peter Hogg, is very clear in this regard. Justice Nadon is eminently qualified and we are confident that he will serve the court with distinction.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, we will continue to appoint Supreme Court of Canada justices on the basis of merit and regional representation. Obviously, we would prefer to have a full bench at the Supreme Court of Canada. However, given the quality of the justices, I am sure they will properly carry out their obligations and responsibilities.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, we will continue appointing judges to the Supreme Court of Canada based on merit and regional representation. In this case, obviously, it would be ideal to have the full panel of the court, but with the quality and depth of the judges that are presently on the bench, they will certainly be able to very ably meet their responsibilities and commitments.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, from previous questions I was almost tempted to believe that somehow the judicial discretion in the question of young offenders had been fettered. It was my impression that the judicial discretion of judges in cases involving young offenders had been bolstered.
I wonder if the hon. member could comment on whether my conclusions are correct.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, that is certainly a very relevant question, which was canvassed at length by the Canadian Bar Association and on which it focused.
However, in our role as parliamentarians, we fix maximum sentences, we fix minimum sentences and we give guidance to the courts as to what is appropriate and which crimes are determined to be more heinous than perhaps others. We dictate the severity.
I do not remember the exact year, but not long ago Parliament abolished the death penalty. That was our call as well. Yes, there is a spectrum, but it is Parliament's call to give the courts guidance on where the crime fits with respect to the question of severity.
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2011-06-13 15:05 [p.276]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages).
He said: I would like to thank the hon. member for Gatineau who has seconded my bill.
This is not the first time I have introduced this bill in the House of Commons. As members know, I am very persistent and I tell myself that one day it will happen. This bill would ensure that future Supreme Court judges will be chosen from among candidates who understand both French and English without the help of an interpreter. I believe that everyone should be equal before the law and should have the right, without distinction, to equal protection in law in both of the country's official languages.
I call upon members from all parties, all senators and the people of Canada to support this bill so that every Canadian is treated more fairly before the Supreme Court.
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