Critics say bill would politicize Ontario judicial appointments

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Jordan Haworth Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey speaks on the upcoming Kenora Justice Center Advisory Board on September 26, 2019. Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey speaks on the upcoming Kenora Justice Center Advisory Board on September 26, 2019. Photo by Zahraa Hmood /.Postmedia network

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A bill from the progressive conservative government received presentations from parties last week and, if passed, would be expanded and guaranteed that documents and reports could be submitted in French.

“If this change is passed, it will affect all Ontarians, including Cornish residents,” said Andrée-Anne Martel, director general of the Association of French-Speaking Jurists of Ontario.

This must be good news for the city of Cornwall, as just over 40 percent of the population are bilingual and around 23 percent say French is their first language according to the city.

“As a long-time advocate of amendments to the Courts of Justice Act relating to bilingual procedures, AJEFO is pleased to learn that the provincial government is proposing changes to allow unrestricted filing of documents in French,” said Marc Sauvé. the President of AJEFO in a press release.

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It is currently guaranteed that French documents will only be accepted in certain areas of the province, but Bill 245 would guarantee acceptance throughout the province.

However, another part of the bill aims to change the way judges are appointed in the province that has come under fire during presentations to the Ontario Legislative Assembly.

Under the bill, the Attorney General would appoint judges and judges from a list of six instead of two candidates recommended by the Advisory Committee for the appointment of judicial officers.

“The WG is proposing to make these changes on the basis that it will supposedly increase diversity in the bank,” said Janani Shanmuganathan, a criminal defense attorney who presented the bill to the LAO last week on behalf of the South Asian Bar Association.

“Instead, it appears that all of these changes increase the AG’s influence and control over who is appointed,” Shanmuganathan said.

She said increasing the number of candidates would give the AG more control over who to vote for. The AG also reserves the right to reject all candidates and recommend new ones. The bill would give the AG the power to decide who sits on the JAAC itself. Previously, members of three legal associations were recommended, who then voted who sat, but this bill would send those recommendations to the AG, which would then vote.

In this way, the bill can open appointments to some degree of partiality.

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“The concern is that the WG will pick the people it wants to be on the committee, and there are problems with that at least in terms of maintaining the committee’s independence,” Shanmuganathan said.

The bill would also require JAAC to record race, gender and gender statistics and use candidates who have been screened in the past year rather than restarting the process for specific vacancies. The province says these changes will accelerate access to justice by appointing judges and judges faster than before.

“The advances we propose in this bill will benefit people across Ontario by saving money and spending less time waiting for their day in court,” said Doug Downey, the current AG, in a press release.

“The last thing we want is for diversity to be used as a token gesture to make changes that increase the AG’s influence by saying, ‘Oh, but we’re doing it for the sake of diversity’ without showing how, “he told Shanmuganathan.

jhaworth@postmedia.com

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