Friday, March 21, 2014

Nadon decision and reasons

Reference re Supreme Court Act, ss. 5 and 6 2014 SCC 21 is carefully reasoned. Some might prefer the decision of the minority. That said there is no question but this is a striking defeat for the Federal Government:

                  A judge of the Federal Court or Federal Court of Appeal is ineligible for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada under s. 6 of the Act.  Section 5 of the Act sets out the general eligibility requirements for appointment to the Supreme Court by creating four groups of people who are eligible for appointment:  (1) current judges of a superior court of a province, including courts of appeal; (2) former judges of such a court; (3) current barristers or advocates of at least 10 years standing at the bar of a province; and (4) former barristers or advocates of at least 10 years standing.  However, s. 6 narrows the pool of eligible candidates from the four groups of people who are eligible under s. 5 to two groups who are eligible under s. 6.  In addition to meeting the general requirements of s. 5, persons appointed to the three Quebec seats under s. 6 must be current members of the Barreau du Québec, the Quebec Court of Appeal or the Superior Court of Quebec.

                    The plain meaning of s. 6 has remained consistent since the original version of that provision was enacted in 1875, and it has always excluded former advocates.  By specifying that three judges shall be appointed "from among" the judges and advocates (i.e. members) of the identified institutions, s. 6 impliedly excludes former members of those institutions and imposes a requirement of current membership.  Reading ss. 5 and 6 together, the requirement of at least 10 years standing at the bar applies to appointments from Quebec.

                    This textual analysis is consistent with the underlying purpose of s. 6 and reflects the historical compromise that led to the creation of the Supreme Court as a general court of appeal for Canada and as a federal and bijural institution.  Section 6 seeks (i) to ensure civil law expertise and the representation of Quebec's legal traditions and social values on the Court, and (ii) to enhance the confidence of Quebec in the Court.  This interpretation is also consistent with the broader scheme of the Act for the appointment of ad hoc judges, which excludes judges of the federal courts as ad hoc judges for Quebec cases.


Anonymous said...

The logical conclusion from this decision is that either we have a Prime Minister who either did not understand our Constitution, or who had tried to do an end run around our Constitution, and has now been stingingly rebuked for it.

In either case, Canada needs a new Prime Minister.

Ernest Julius Guiste said...

Rocco Gallati - a great advocate !

KC said...

I guess it is kind of a moot point but I tend to disagree with the court's analysis.

I agree with much of what is written here-- -- but did agree with the court that the amendments to the SCA would have to be done under the amending formula.