Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 75

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


Judicial Appointments—Placement of Police Representatives on Selection Committees

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: My question is also to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. All of us have a great deal of respect for the work of our police forces and for the professionalism they display day in and day out. They are great representatives of our country.

However, the government’s recent move to add a member from the police forces at the expense of a vote from the judicial representative on judicial appointments committees has me baffled. These committees make recommendations for appointments to the superior courts. The work of the court is overwhelmingly in the field of civil and family law. Several jurisdictions have superior courts devoted entirely to family law.

The police in our country are exposed to a relatively small part of the bar, with expertise of limited value to the court. The police can have little say about the civil and family bar. The point of appointing more lawyers, presumably for prosecutors perceived to be tough on crime, with no experience in the majority of fields in which the court operates is counterproductive.

Why appoint policemen on a judicial committee that recommends judges to the whole judiciary system?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for her question. I answered a similar question before Christmas from Senator Milne. We have made changes to the judicial advisory committees, which were, by the way, as I pointed out, set up in 1988 under the previous Conservative government.

If the honourable senator were to go back and check the record at the time that those committees were set up — Senator St. Germain will remember this — she will see that there was a great hue and cry that we would influence the judiciary unfairly by having these judicial advisory committees, and the committees turned out to be a valuable resource.

We made 16 changes by adding 16 members to the committees across the country, and we added a police officer. Police officers are first responders, the front-line people who deal with victims of crime and are well positioned to understand, and do understand, the law. We know the police are in our court system working on court cases.

Frankly, I do not see or understand why the addition of a police officer in any way would undermine the ability of the committees to provide advice — it is only an advisory committee. Ultimately, the decision is the Minister of Justice’s and the government’s.

I think the fears of having a police officer added to these committees are unfounded because I am confident that at the end of the process we will appoint people to the judiciary who are extremely competent and will represent the law in a competent and unbiased way.


Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, I have a supplementary question, if I may, to ask of the leader. When appointing a policeman to these boards, why do they see it as necessary to take away the voting power from the judiciary?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, first of all, these are advisory committees and the judiciary will have a vote when there is a tie. Anyone I have talked to who has served on these various committees, whether they happen to be Liberal, Conservative or non-partisan, have told me that, by and large, when names come before these committees, there is pretty broad consensus. It usually never comes down to a situation where people are divided. However, if there was a divided opinion and it ended up in a tie, the judge on the committee would then break the tie.