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.