On December 16, 2014, the Attorney General of Canada announced 17 appointments to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and Court of Appeal for Ontario, filling some of the significant vacancies in Ontario’s courts. These vacancies were causing substantial delays for litigants in Ontario courts and significantly compromising access to justice.
The South Asian Bar Association (SABA), the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) and the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) do not doubt that each of Ontario’s newest judges will be fine jurists and are qualified for the bench. However, we are sorely disappointed that, once again, the federal government has failed to appoint judges from equality-seeking groups. The recent appointments clearly perpetuate the historical under-representation of women and racialized persons in the Canadian judiciary. Less than 20 per cent of the new appointments are women and only one appointee appears to be a racialized person.
SABA, FACL and CABL believe that it is time to reform the appointments process for judges to federally appointed courts. The selection process must become more transparent and accountable. This should include evaluation criteria announced publicly; a protocol for consultations; an advisory panel of lawyers and members of the community; and judicial diversity statistics on gender, race and other grounds.
“It is simply inexplicable that, only now, there is a South Asian judge on Ontario’s trial court, when South Asians represent the largest group of visible minorities in Toronto and Peel Region,” says Jayashree Goswami, SABA’s President. “If South Asians and other racialized persons do not see their communities represented on the bench, we risk creating an entire generation of Canadians that views our justice system as illegitimate. Justice must be seen to be done.”
“Our judiciary must be reflective of the population which it serves” says Arleen Huggins, President of CABL. “The lack of diversity among federally appointed judges is well documented. It is clear that the appointment rate for visible minorities is woefully inadequate viewed from both the perspective of the general Canadian population and within the legal profession itself. The government must be held to account.”
Lai-King Hum, President of FACL states, “FACL is disappointed with the latest list of judicial appointments, particularly in light of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s release on October 30, 2014 of its “Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Consultation Report”. Judges are the “face” of the administration of justice, and must embody the principles of equality, justice and fairness. Where there is a grossly disproportionate number of racialized judges on the bench, these principles are put into jeopardy and, from a public perspective, diminish confidence in the administration of justice.”
SABA, FACL and CABL urge the federal government to immediately implement a transparent and accountable system for judicial appointments with respect to the remaining 14 vacancies in Ontario’s courts.
This Joint Statement and all previous statements made by FACL about diversity in the judiciary and legal profession in Canada are available on our Media Page under the sections “FACL Press Releases and Submissions” and “Judicial and Legal Diversity in Canada”.