Bill to change judicial appointments should bar partisanship: former Ontario chief justices

TORONTO – Three former Ontario judges say legislative proposals that would change the appointment of provincial judges should include a clause prohibiting partiality.

In a submission to a legislative committee, the three former heads of the Ontario Court of Justice propose to add to this in order to avoid criticism of “politics or suspicion of politics”.

Brian W. Lennox, Sidney B. Linden and Annemarie Bonkalo recommend adding a provision that excludes “political affiliation in the appointment process”.

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According to experts, the proposed law to modernize the judiciary in Ontario would undermine access to the system

The three are also proposing several other changes to the bill, including requiring the attorney general to give reasons when he turns down an entire list of recommended judicial candidates.

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The ruling progressive conservatives passed legislation last month to prevent changes to the appointment process they originally proposed last year after making some adjustments to respond to feedback from judicial officials.

The province has said that if passed, the legislation would allow vacancies to be filled more quickly.

Last year, concerns were raised about the potential for political interference when the province first proposed changes to the process of appointing judicial officers.

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At this point, the government planned to increase the number of candidates recommended to fill vacancies on the provincial bank from at least two to at least six, and to require the selection committee to provide the attorney general with a list of all candidates considered apply eligible.

The bill introduced last month would allow the attorney general to see only the names of the six or more recommended candidates rather than the full list.

However, the Attorney General would still be allowed to refuse a full list of recommended candidates and request a new list from the selection committee.

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Attorney General Doug Downey has said this shouldn’t raise any concerns about possible bias as the government has no way of knowing who else is considered eligible.

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In their statement, the three former chief judges say the bill should require the attorney general to respond to the recommendations of the selection board within a “specified reasonable time” in order to avoid delays in filling vacancies.

They also call for more transparency in the event that the recommendations are rejected.

“We are not suggesting that the minister cannot refuse a ranking,” they wrote.

CONTINUE READING: The Ontario government is introducing proposed changes to the process for appointing judicial officers

“However, we propose that the legislation requires the minister to give the committee reasons as to when and whether the minister rejects the committee’s ranking of candidates.”

Provincial judges deal with some criminal cases, tickets and provincial offenses. The judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the federal government.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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