Category: Law

Confirmation Hearings for Canadian Appeal Court Nominees

It is not every day that I have, respectfully, to disagree with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), but today is that day.

The Globe and Mail newspaper this morning quoted SCC Chief Justice Richard Wagner saying that he would like to see public nomination hearings for appeal court judges, much like the ones held for the SCC.  Such hearings for SCC nominees are largely a waste of time. Why expand an essentially useless and potentially harmful process?

Chief Justice Wagner was quoted as saying that explanations are necessary “Because people need and deserve the information. There is no reason we should not give it to them. We have nothing to hide.” I agree with those sentiments as far as they go, but all the relevant information can be provided in a printed bio or CV or by reading Wikipedia. The questions politicians really want answered have nothing to do with information. Rather, it is about the nominees’ views on politically controversial issues. Yet these views are almost never obtained on questioning.

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The Vice-Admiral Norman Case: A Prosecution Without Political Interference?

“Even a fish wouldn’t get into trouble if it kept its mouth shut.” Korean proverb.

Introduction:

As most Canadians who follow the news will know, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the Vice-Chief of Canada’s Defence Staff was suspended from his position in 2016 and subsequently prosecuted for the alleged criminal offence of breach of trust. He was accused of having leaked secret Canadian government information about a Navy shipbuilding contract. On May 8, 2019 the prosecutor stayed the charges against him and the judge told him that he was free to go.

But that has not ended the controversy about the prosecution. There has been extensive speculation about political interference from the Prime Minister’s office.  That speculation may have gained some support from the evidence of Mr. Norman’s superior, Chief of the Defence Staff General Jon Vance, that Vance had discussed the matter with Mr. Trudeau and his top advisors, including then-principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford. The Prime Minister has denied any political interference and to date no one has produced any evidence of it. I am inclined to believe the Prime Minister. However, the absence of direct interference by elected politicians is not the same as lack of political considerations in the prosecution.

As events have unfolded, the prosecutor, the RCMP and the Prime Minister all look bad.

 

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