Canadian Judicial Council asks Supreme Court of Canada to clarify the rules regarding the removal of federally-appointed judges

Ottawa, 15 August 2019 –The Canadian Judicial Council is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada from the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal concerning the Honourable Michel Girouard (2019 FCA 148). That decision concluded that Council, composed of all Chief Justices of the Superior courts, is an administrative body whose recommendations to remove a judge from office can be reviewed by the Federal Court.

The issues raised by Council in the Appeal are constitutional in nature. Council believes they are of national significance in that they relate directly to a key aspect of judicial independence, security of tenure. Judicial independence exists to protect the public, so that judges can render decisions impartially without fear of interference.

Chief Justice Wagner, who is both Chief Justice of Canada and Chairperson of the Council, does not participate in the review of any judicial conduct matter and has not taken part in the decisions regarding this matter. He has also taken formal steps to recuse from any consideration of the matter by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Council believes that any review of recommendations in respect of the removal of a judge must recognize the constitutional dimensions of such recommendations. Council seeks clarification of those constitutional principles from the Supreme Court. This includes by whom such recommendations may be reviewed.

A careful balance is necessary to ensure that inquiries into judicial conduct are both fair to the judge and fair to the public interest.

Council will continue to advocate for legislative reforms in relation to judicial conduct, to ensure that there is a new process that is transparent and achieves the necessary balance between a judge’s security of tenure and the need to remove from office those judges who are unable to uphold the high standards attached to that office. The ultimate goal of the process of review of the conduct of judges is to foster ongoing public confidence in the judiciary.

Contact:
Norman Sabourin
Executive Director and Senior General Counsel
(613) 288-1566 ext 313