Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning, honourable colleagues.
To begin, I would like to acknowledge that I'm on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people, in Ottawa.
I would also like to thank the members of the committee, as well as the chair, for convening this special session. As always, your contribution in helping to shape the character of one of Canada's most important and enduring institutions is deeply valued.
I would also like to thank the Right Honourable Kim Campbell for being with us this morning, but also for her work in the process that I'll highlight later.
The Supreme Court of Canada is a place close to my heart. It is the place where, years ago, I began my own legal career as a law clerk to a cherished mentor and friend, the late Honourable Peter deCarteret Cory. His example serves to remind me that our great public institutions depend on the dedication and integrity of those who occupy them.
It is my privilege today to speak in support of the Honourable Mahmud Jamal, a nominee who I am confident will honour the highest ideals of the Supreme Court and help to guide the evolution of Canada’s laws with wisdom, fairness, humility and a deep understanding of the society he serves.
I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Justice Jamal, and I look forward to his appearance before parliamentarians this afternoon.
I would also be remiss not to take this opportunity to acknowledge the lifetime of contribution and service to Canada, and to the rule of law, of Justice Jamal’s predecessor, the Honourable Rosie Silberman Abella. Justice Abella is a trailblazer and a jurist of remarkable intellect and character, and she has left an indelible mark on Canada’s legal landscape. She will be deeply missed on our highest court, but I have no doubt that she will continue to make important contributions to our public life in other roles.
Justice Jamal is the fourth person appointed to the Supreme Court by Prime Minister Trudeau as part of the government's modernized judicial selection process that was implemented in 2016. This process prioritizes individual merit, as well as the values of social representativeness and transparency. It requires every person seeking appointment to our highest court to apply by responding to a rigorous and publicly accessible questionnaire. It requires individuals to demonstrate not only legal and professional excellence, but also how their personal experiences have shaped their views and understanding of Canadian society in all its diversity. This process also requires that all candidates be assessed against consistent, transparent and merit‑based criteria, first and foremost, by an independent advisory board of highly qualified individuals. that reflect the highest standards of communities across Canada.
The independent advisory board for Supreme Court appointments, or IAB, is the heart of the selection process. I am pleased to be joined today by its chair, the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, who has contributed so much to the success of the Supreme Court appointment process through her stewardship of four nominations, including today's. Ms. Campbell never fails to inform and support this committee with characteristic intelligence and candour, and we owe her a deep debt of gratitude. I am looking forward to hearing her remarks today.
I am also deeply grateful to the individuals who served with Ms. Campbell as members of the IAB. These members are nominated not just by the government, but by organizations committed to the rule of law and to serving Canadians. They include the Canadian Bar Association, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, the Canadian Judicial Council and the Council of Canadian Law Deans. The thoughtful nominees of these organizations and the dedicated service of these individuals on the IAB ensure that the judicial selection process mirrors a critical aspiration for the Supreme Court itself: that it truly reflect our society and be a place in which Canadians can see themselves and their life experiences represented.
The current selection process was initiated by Prime Minister Trudeau on February 19, 2021, to fill the position that will soon become vacant when Justice Abella retires.
As publicly stated in its terms of reference, the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments, or IAB, has been tasked with recommending candidates of the highest calibre who are functionally bilingual and representative of Canada's diversity.
In keeping with the long‑standing regional representation agreement, this selection process was open to all qualified individuals in Ontario. Interested candidates were given six weeks to submit their applications, after which the IAB reviewed them. This review included consultation with the Chief Justice of Canada, references and stakeholders, and personal meetings with some of the candidates. The IAB conducted its work in a confidential manner, as required by its terms of reference, and each member of the IAB signed a confidentiality agreement in advance.
At the end of the process, the IAB provided the Prime Minister with a report containing a shortlist of individuals, all of whom met the publicly announced merit criteria and who were the most distinguished. I then consulted on the shortlisted candidates to provide advice to the Prime Minister.
I consulted with chief justices, including the Chief Justice of Canada, the Attorney General of Ontario, cabinet colleagues, opposition justice critics, members of this committee and the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, and senior members of the bar. The Prime Minister then made his final selection.
I wish to stress, again, the confidentiality of this process, which is essential in ensuring that exceptional candidates come forward and speak to their life experiences and skills with honesty and candour. Members of Parliament, senators, and members of the bar were each required to complete a non-disclosure agreement.
All persons involved in conducting the process, including me, the Prime Minister, and members of the IAB, understand the importance of confidentiality in providing candidates with the fair treatment they deserve and the rigorous scrutiny that an appointment to the Supreme Court demands.
I would like to now invite the Right Hon. Kim Campbell to speak to the process from her perspective.