The Trudeau government is coming under fire from opposition parties for their judicial and tribunal appointment process with critics saying that the Liberals continue to reward party donors.
Federal opposition parties feel the Trudeau government is engaging in a selection process that undermines Canadians’ trust in the legal system.
According to the National Post and the Investigative Journalism Foundation (IJF), 76% of the federal judicial and tribunal judges that have been appointed under the Trudeau government had previously made donations to the Liberal Party of Canada.
That makes up a strong majority in comparison to the 22.9% of appointees who donated to the Conservative party and the 17% who donated to the NDP.
Since the Liberal party took power in 2015, not one single appointee has donated to the Bloc Québécois party, according to data from Elections Canada.
“Clearly, there aren’t many believers in Quebec’s independence who believe they have a chance of being appointed by the federal governments, and their concern is obviously real,” said Bloc Québécois MP Rhéal Fortin. “It appears that federalist ministers of justice will certainly not appoint someone who thinks differently than them on important issues like the Constitution,” he added.
During the previous Conservative government, the Liberals were outspoken in their criticisms of the Conservative government’s judicial appointment process and promised reforms in 2016 after they were elected.
“The public’s confidence in our judicial system is the backbone of our society. We want a judicial system that is neutral, effective and independent. Moving ahead with political appointments considerably undermines the public’s confidence and is akin to playing with fire,” said Fortin.
Fortin, who previously worked as a lawyer, believes this type of partisanship within the selection process hurts public confidence and puts a political spin on how decisions will ultimately be made in Canadian courtrooms.
The Trudeau government says that their appointment process is based solely on merit and is not politically motivated.
“The judicial appointment process is focused on merit, on the needs of courts, and on building a bench that reflects the country it serves. Importantly, an applicant’s political donation record is not a factor in the decision to recommend them for a judicial appointment,” said David Taylor, a spokesperson for Arif Virani, the newly appointed Justice Minister.
Fortin isn’t convinced however and he remains concerned by the recent findings by the National Post and IJF.
“By doing this, the government is influencing decisions to come from courts,” said Fortin. “The government is exerting an influence on tribunals by appointing people who are aligned with it and share an opinion with it on important issues.”
“It’s an uncouth way to influence the law for years to come,” continued Fortin. “Two things, rewarding people and influencing rulings, will result in undermining the public’s confidence in our judicial system.”
Conservative MP Rob Moore has also expressed his frustrations with how long it has taken for the Liberal government to make said appointments. There are currently around 80 vacant seats that the federal government has yet to fill.
“Appointing judges is the prime minister’s responsibility, but instead of filling the high number of vacancies to keep criminals off our streets, Trudeau is holding out to appoint his Liberal insider friends,” said Moore.
“Because Trudeau has failed to appoint judges, dangerous, violent criminals have walked away free because no judges were available to hear their cases,” Moore continued.
Moore said that if it were the Conservative party in power, they would create a legal system where “victims, not criminals, come first.”
Fortin also made mention of the fact that in the past, the Liberal party has used a partisan database, known as Liberalist and other various MP party networks as part of their vetting process in appointing candidates for these positions. The Liberal party has since said they are no longer using partisan databases as an aid in the selection process.