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FACL – Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Justice Wilson-Raybould

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December 8, 2015

Dear Prime Minister and Minister:

Re: Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) Welcomes New Government

Congratulations on forming the new government of Canada. We applaud the government’s stated commitment to inclusivity, which it put into action swiftly with its Cabinet appointments. It is heartening to see a Cabinet that looks like Canada, and we look forward to working with you to build a judiciary that also looks like Canada.

The Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) is a national organization with regional chapters in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Atlantic Canada. We are a diverse coalition of Pan-Asian Canadian legal professionals from across the country seeking to promote equity, justice, and opportunities for Asian Canadian legal professionals as well as the wider community. Next year we will celebrate 10 years of being a strong and leading voice on diverse justice issues in the legal community.

FACL is encouraged by the government’s commitment to “transparent, merit-based appointments, to help ensure gender parity and that Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership”. More specifically, we laud the government’s mandate of “ensur[ing] that the process of appointing Supreme Court Justices is transparent, inclusive and accountable to Canadians”. We are hopeful that the government will prioritize transparency, inclusivity, and accountability in the same way for all federally-appointed judges.

FACL has a long, well-documented history of advocating for judicial diversity. We are deeply concerned that the current judicial appointments process is not effective in ensuring that the judiciary reflects the population it serves, thereby eroding public confidence in our justice system.

As stakeholders, we would like to request the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Justice to discuss ways of improving the judicial appointments process and to open a constructive dialogue on achieving greater diversity on the bench. A judiciary that better reflects Canada’s diverse population enhances public confidence in the legal system and strengthens the rule of law in this country.

An important first step towards judicial inclusivity is the collection of demographic data regarding judicial applicants and appointees. As noted recently by Dean Lorne Sossin of Osgoode Hall Law School, “the choice not to keep or track such data is directly linked to the failure of Canada’s judiciary to reflect Canada’s rich demographic diversity”.

Such initiatives have already begun in other Commonwealth jurisdictions such as England and Wales, which collect and publish statistics on the demographic composition of courts and tribunals. The provincial judicial appointments process in Ontario also collects and publishes data on judicial applicants and appointees, and may be seen as a potential model for increasing transparency in federal judicial appointments.

Other mechanisms that may enhance transparency and accountability include: a selection process with published evaluation criteria; a protocol for consultations with equity-seeking legal organizations such as FACL; and greater diversity on the Judicial Advisory Appointments Committee.

We hope you will agree that the above considerations are an appropriate place to start the dialogue on enhancing judicial inclusivity and diversity. We look forward to hearing from you and collaborating on this matter of significance to all Canadians.

Yours truly,

 

Lai-King Hum

National President, Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers

 

Gerald Chan

Co-Chair, Advocacy Committee

 

Phil Tsui

Co-Chair, Advocacy Committee

 

Jennifer Lau

President, FACL BC

 

Brendan Wong

President, FACL Ontario

 

Steven Ngo

President, FACL Western

 

Megan Seto

President, FACL Eastern

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