Culture Official Languages

Ensure judicial appointments to the Supreme Court are functionally bilingual.

Liberal Platform Page 31 October 5, 2015
Oct 2016

Trudeau nominates Newfoundlander Malcolm Rowe to Supreme Court

CBC News October 17, 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has nominated Newfoundlander Malcolm Rowe to the Supreme Court of Canada, ending speculation that he would snub Atlantic Canada and ignore the convention of designating a seat on the top court for the region.

The appointment is historic in that the province has never had a representative on the Supreme Court since it joined Confederation in 1949.

According to a questionnaire he completed to apply for the position, Rowe is bilingual. He said he could read and understand court materials in both official languages, converse with counsel in court and understand oral submissions.

This promise status will be updated accordingly if a non-bilingual judge gets nominated on the Supreme Court in the future.

Aug 2016

Justin Trudeau outlines selection process for new Supreme Court justices

CBC News August 02, 2016

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the application process will be open so any qualified Canadian lawyer or judge who is functionally bilingual and "representative of the diversity of our great country" can apply for the top court.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Tuesday the government is "not moving away" from the convention that Atlantic Canada gets a seat on the bench, but said for this particular appointment there will be a broader pool of candidates.

Wilson-Raybould also defended the requirement that all Liberal picks for the bench will be bilingual - adding all Canadians have a right to be heard in both official languages at the highest court in the land, even if that disadvantages appointees from regions of the country without a strong tradition of working in both English and French.

Apr 2016

Will next Supreme Court justice come from Atlantic Canada?

CTV News April 02, 2016

Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are lobbying to have the next Supreme Court of Canada justice come from their province, but legal experts say the federal government will likely prioritize race or language over geography.

Justice Thomas Cromwell of Nova Scotia will retire in September and it’s generally accepted that his replacement will come from Atlantic Canada. Traditionally, the court has three members from Quebec, three from Ontario, one from British Columbia, one from the west and one from the Maritimes, but there has never been one from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Andrew Parsons, the province’s justice minister, has written a letter to the federal government to say it’s time Newfoundland and Labrador was represented on the top court. But Adam Dodek, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, says the federal government has more to consider than Newfoundland’s position, such as the experience of the possible candidates, language skills and gender.

Balancing both the expectation that the judge should come from Newfoundland (as would be expected as per tradition) and the electoral promise to ensure Supreme Court judges are bilingual might prove challenging, as it appears Newfoundland currently doesn't have any bilingual judges on its appeal court, the place from which most Supreme Court judges are drawn.