Two New Ontario Vacancies on SCC – Justices Binnie and Charon to Step Down


OTTAWA, May 13, 2011 – The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, announced today that Justice Ian Binnie and Justice Louise Charron have written to the Minister of Justice, the Honourable Robert Nicholson, to inform him that they will retire from the Supreme Court of Canada. Justice Charron’s retirement will be effective August 30, 2011. Justice Binnie’s retirement will take effect upon the same date or, if there is a delay in the nomination process, so soon thereafter as his replacement is appointed. The Judges Act provides that a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada may, for a period of six months following his or her retirement, continue to participate in judgments with respect to cases heard prior to retiring.

“The departure of Justices Binnie and Charron will leave an important void on the Court. Both have served the Court with great wisdom and dedication and have made significant and lasting contributions to the administration of justice in Canada. They are valued colleagues and friends. We will miss them” said Chief Justice McLachlin.

For his part, Justice Binnie said, “It has been an honour and a privilege to serve on the Supreme Court of Canada since January 1998. Much as I will miss the work and my colleagues, I am now well into my fourteenth year on the Court and the time has come to return to Toronto to pick up some of the threads of an earlier existence. I deeply appreciate the opportunities given to me to participate in the administration of justice in so many different capacities over more than 44 years and I thank those who from time to time made it possible”.

Justice Charron said, “I feel truly privileged to have spent the last years of my judicial career serving the Canadian people as a member of the Supreme Court of Canada. As promised when I took the oath of office, I have brought to this task my best, every day, whatever that could be at the time. I hope that I have lived up to the trust and honour that was bestowed upon me. The reasons for my decision to retire are quite simple. I have recently turned 60. My husband and I both enjoy good health. We have a great family and wonderful friends. I have been a judge for 23 years now and the seventh anniversary of my appointment to the Court, August 30 next, seems like the perfect time to move on”.

Justice Binnie was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada on January 8, 1998, after a distinguished career as an advocate in courts and tribunals across Canada and before the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Justice Charron was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada on August 30, 2004, after having served on the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division) and the District Court of Ontario.

Chief Justice McLachlin concluded saying “I am certain that the Canadian government will give priority consideration to the appointment of two new justices of the Supreme Court with all the care and deliberation that is required in the circumstances.”




  1. Once the tributes to the contributions of Justices Charron and Binnie come in, speculation will turn (as it always does) to the field of candidates who might be on the Prime Minister’s list for the two vacancies.

    It’s very unusual to have two vacancies from a single province.

    Let’s see what the list might look like.

    Justice Binnie was very unusual in being appointed (as was Sopinka J before him), straight from the practising bar.

    The Prime Minister might be looking at senior litigators in Ontario, but it’s more likely that he’ll pick from the judiciary.

    The Court of Appeal is a logical place to look.

    Here are some names:

    Laskin JA – long rumoured to be destined to follow his father, Laskin CJC to the court

    Rouleau JA – the senior bilingual justice on the Appeal Court

    Sharpe J – former Dean of Law at U of T and fluently bilingual – a lawyer’s lawyer

    Blair JA – another bilingual justice

    If the Prime Minister wants to preserve gender balance, then among the names would be

    Perhaps McFarland JA and Weiler JA – though both are older than Charron J. Weller JA sits on French language appeals.

    My guess is Cronk JA or Gillese JA, both strong contenders.

    If criminal law strength is needed (since Charron J’s background was as a Crown Attorney) then perhaps:

    Moldaver JA and Rosenberg JA are the obvious names but the Ontario Court of Appeal has the most criminal bench strength of any court in the country, if you add Watt JA and Doherty JA.

    And don’t forget the Ontario judges sitting on the Federal Court of Appeal, Stratas JA is bilingual and very talented – but may be too recent an appointment to move across the street to the SCC just yet. Evans JA is another possibility, but I don’t know whether he is bilingual.

    Which other names might be considered?

  2. One thing the prime minister should be thinking about is making sure there are options for the next chief justice of the court. Chief Justice McLachlin has been an extraordinary leader, but she has held that position for more than 11 years now, and the day will come when she steps down as well. You don’t want to crowd the court with ambitious types who undermine its functionality, but there needs to be some thought given to who will serve as chief justice between 2015 and 2025.

  3. Gary P. Rodrigues

    The Prime Minister has a law and order constituency that might look with favour on the appointment of someone like David Watt, a former crown prosecutor and judge noted for his strict and careful implementation of the criminal law in murder trials.

  4. David Cheifetz

    Simon C:

    A small point but Rouleau JA isn’t the “senior bilingual” justice on the CA

    Justice Todd Ducharme of the SCJ – for all the right reasons – and one that would be wrong in a perfect world – but will be right in ours.

    Feldman JA

  5. David – don’t know what “seniority” means:

    Feldman JA called 1974
    Rouleau JA called 1979
    Ducharme J called 1987

    For reference Charron J was called in 1977 and Binnie J in 1967.

    The new appointments aren’t likely to be senior to – or older than – Charron J.

  6. David Cheifetz

    I meant seniority on the CA, not total time on the bench, nor time since one’s call, that’s all. I didn’t realize you we’re going back to calls.


  7. What should be made of the media’s contention that Harper will use his majority to “pack the court.” His two nominations so far, Rothstein (actually a Liberal govt nominee) and Cromwell have been relatively uncontroversial. However, they were appointed under Harper minorities. Will Harper’s majority lead to a US-style ideological struggle for the court?