Conservatives gave ‘serious thought’ to giving women majority on Supreme Court, Peter MacKay says


On terms of all federally appointed judges, women formed 30.1 percent of federal court judges, and 34.7 percent of provincial court judges (March 2016 numbers, see “Because it’s 2015 …” Implementing Diversity and Inclusion):

The previous Conservative government at one point considered working toward giving women a majority of the nine seats on the Supreme Court of Canada, former justice minister Peter MacKay said.

“I can assure you that there was very serious thought given,” MacKay said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press about the new appointments process proposed by the current Liberal government.

The former cabinet minister from Nova Scotia said this was at the time leading up to the appointment of Justice Marc Nadon, a choice that was ultimately rejected by the high court on the grounds that it did not meet the constitutional requirements for a Quebec justice.

The short list of six candidates, which was later leaked to the Globe and Mail, included the names of two female candidates.

Had one of them been chosen, the Supreme Court would have had four women on the bench, resulting in gender parity at a time when there was still another vacancy.

 “It was being considered as an important precedent, but also just the fact that at that moment in time the female candidates for selection were equally impressive as far as their qualification,” MacKay later wrote in an email in response to a follow-up question as to whether promoting more women to the high court was a deliberate goal.
Had things turned out that way, women would have made up a majority of the justices on the Supreme Court for the first time in December 2014, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Suzanne Cote, the first woman appointed to the high court from a career as a lawyer in private practice.

MacKay shared the insight into judicial appointments history while making the argument that the Liberal government should be able to achieve its goal of diversifying the bench without abandoning the “constitutional tradition” that would see retiring justice Thomas Cromwell, who is from Nova Scotia, replaced with another judge from Atlantic Canada.

“I think we really have to keep front and centre that criteria of legal excellence,” said MacKay, who is considering a bid for the Conservative party leadership.

Source: Conservatives gave ‘serious thought’ to giving women majority on Supreme Court, Peter MacKay says | National Post

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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