The Lawyers Weekly writes in its latest issue that the Conservative government’s attempt to change the way federal judges are nominated is the big story of 2006.
In the article entitled Conservatives aim to replace judicial ‘Charterphiles’ with ‘Charterphobes’?, journalist Cristin Schmitz writes:
“(T)he most remarkable legal story of the year is the new government’s swift and unilateral measures to shake up the way federal judges are appointed —changes which have sparked both praise and protests from the Bench and Bar as well as from the wider community.”
“By November, without any prior consultation with the judiciary or organized Bar, Justice Minister Vic Toews stunned many with his announcement of contentious reforms to the judicial appointment process.”
“Those changes are expected to be implemented as soon as this month with the unveiling of 128 appointments to 16 new judicial appointments advisory committees (JACs), which have been reorganized to add a new seat reserved for police representatives, and to give the government a freer hand in selecting judges. ”
“That reforming the judicial appointment process ranked so high on Prime Minister Harper’s ‘to-do’ list during his government’s first year in office will not surprise those familiar with the oft-expressed antipathy of many Conservatives and their socially conservative supporters to Charter-based ‘activism’ on the Bench.”
“In his 2002 book Friends of the Court: The Privileging of Interest Group Litigants in Canada, Harper’s present chief of staff, Ian Brodie, criticized the Court Challenges Program for unduly favouring feminist and gay-rights groups, and noted that Supreme Court decisions benefiting such groups offer the high court ‘all the fun of making political decisions under the guise of interpreting constitutional law’.”