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Frequently Asked Questions about making a complaint

Who can file a complaint?

Any member of the public can make a complaint to the Council as long as the complaint is about judicial conduct, is made in writing, and is about a federally appointed judge.

Who can I file a complaint against?

The Canadian Judicial Council has the authority to review complaints against federally appointed judges in Canada. These are judges from federal courts and from Superior courts across the country.

Where can I find out if the judge against whom I am making a complaint is federal?

The resource centre on our website is a good place to find contact information for courts in respective provinces and territories who maintain lists of all their judges.

What happens if I want to file an appeal instead of a complaint?

That is not a matter for the CJC. If you wish to appeal a judge's decision, you must refer to a higher court for a review of that decision. You may wish to consult the court of appeal in your respective province or territory.

What happens when I contact the Council?

If you call us, we will refer you to our website for information on Council's Review Procedures and other relevant information. We will inform you that if you wish to make a complaint, you must do so in writing. If your complaint is under active review, we will not be able to discuss any of the details with you.

What must my complaint include?

If you decide to submit a written complaint, please ensure that you are complaining against an active federal judge. Your letter of complaint must include your name and address (so that we may communicate with you further), the name of the judge, court date and a detailed description of the conduct to which you object.

Is there a time limit by which I need to submit my complaint?

No, however, Council only reviews complaints against active judges. Once a judge retires, Council has no jurisdiction given that they are no longer a judge.

What if I change my mind and wish to withdraw my complaint?

That is your decision. If you decide to withdraw your complaint, please advise Council in writing. While we try wherever possible to follow the complainant's wishes, Council may proceed with the complaint if we believe it is in the public interest to do so.

Are there any fees or costs?

No, there are no costs or fees associated with making a complaint to Council.

Do I need a lawyer?

No, you do not need to be represented by a lawyer in order for you to make a complaint. The Canadian Judicial Council is not a court nor does it offer any legal advice.

Is the system fair? Is there any point in submitting a complaint?

Council takes its duty to manage an effective, fair and transparent complaint process very seriously. The responsibility for reviewing alleged breaches of conduct was assigned to us by Parliament, through the Judges Act.

While Council takes its responsibility seriously and reviews all complaints with diligence, we will not pursue those infrequent complaints which are clearly irrational, trivial, without substance or that are made with the obvious intent to abuse our complaints process.

Will the judge I am complaining against know my name and see my complaint?

If the member of Council's Judicial Conduct Committee believes that your complaint would benefit from obtaining comments of the judge in question, then a copy of your complaint will be sent to the judge and to the chief justice of that judge's province. Similarly, when a complaint file is closed, the judge and his or her chief justice is sent a copy of the letter informing the complainant of the status of the complaint. Transparency is considered an important principle of fairness - both for the complainant and for the judge against whom a complaint is levelled.

Should I worry about retaliation?

Judges recognize that a fair and transparent complaint process is key to sustaining public confidence in the decisions that they render every day. In the rare instance where a complainant may have some remote concern about possible retaliation, Council's Review Procedures provide for a complaint received from an anonymous source to be treated to the greatest extent possible in the same manner as any other complaint.

Will I be told what the judge has to say? How will I be kept informed?

When your complaint has been considered and determined, the Council will advise you of the decision in writing. We are not able to discuss specifics of your complaint over the phone.

Can the judge be fired?

Should a complaint be so serious that Council believes it has rendered the judge unable to perform the functions expected of him or her, Council may recommend to Parliament, through the Minister of Justice that a judge be removed from office. This would then be a decision for Parliament.

How long will the review of my complaint take?

The review of most complaints takes place within three months. Almost all complaints are reviewed within six months. Some difficult or complex matters can take longer to resolve.

What if I disagree with Council's decision?

Council's decisions are made after careful deliberation and the conscientious application of the Review Procedures. If you have additional information relevant to your complaint which was not already considered, you are welcome to forward it to us.