Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

October 22, 2013 13:55 ET

Government of Canada Takes Steps to Clarify Certain Eligibility Criteria for Supreme Court Justices

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Oct. 22, 2013) - The Honourable Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Central Nova, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced today the steps the Government has taken to clarify certain eligibility criteria of Supreme Court Justices.

A Reference will be launched by the Attorney General of Canada, in the Supreme Court of Canada, relating to appointments to the highest court. Declaratory provisions have also been introduced to the Supreme Court Act.

"Our Government will defend the eligibility of longstanding members of the bar in all provinces and territories to sit on the highest court in Canada," said Minister MacKay. "Longstanding members of the Quebec bar should be, and are under the law, treated the same as lawyers in other provinces and territories in Canada."

According to the legal opinion of former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie, whose professional recommendation was sought before the appointment of Justice Nadon, someone who has been an advocate of the Quebec bar for at least ten years at any time during their career is qualified to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. This view was also supported by both former Supreme Court of Canada Justice, the Honourable Louise Charron, and noted constitutional expert Peter Hogg.

Despite these clear expert opinions, the recent appointment of the Honourable Justice Nadon is currently being challenged in the Federal Court. In order to ensure a speedy resolution to this important matter, so that Justice Nadon can do the job he was appointed to do, the Government will refer the issue to the Supreme Court.

The Government has also introduced declaratory provisions to the Supreme Court Act clarifying-without making changes to the existing law-that individuals with at least 10 years with Quebec bar at any time during their career, are eligible to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada as a Quebec member.

"Our Government looks forward to resolving this issue," said Minister MacKay. "Justice Nadon is greatly qualified for the position to which he was selected with the approval of members of the Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties-making this a non-partisan appointment. With over 20 years of experience as a member of the Quebec bar, followed by 20 distinguished years as a judge, we are certain that Justice Nadon will serve the court with distinction. It is in the best interest of the administration of justice and in the interest of all Canadians that the Supreme Court be restored to a full roster of nine justices as soon as possible."

As those who follow the Supreme Court know, there is a history of appointing Federal Court judges in this country. Justice Marshall Rothstein was a member of the Manitoba Bar, appointed to the Federal Court, then to the Federal Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada in 2006. Before him, Justices Frank Iacobucci and Gerald LeDain - both members of the Ontario Bar - followed the same route to the Supreme Court.

Experience on the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal enhances a long-time advocate's qualification to serve on the Supreme Court, rather than negate it.

An online version of the declaratory amendments can be found at


PM announces nominee for Supreme Court of Canada

Supreme Court of Canada appointments selection process

The Honourable Mr. Justice Marc Nadon

Qualification of member of the Federal Court with 10 years of experience as a member of the Québec Bar to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada

Internet: (Version française disponible)

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Contact Information

  • Paloma Aguilar
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Justice

    Media Relations Office
    Department of Justice