Wed, August 25, 2004

New judges back gays
PM selects before top court to rule on marriage

PRIME MINISTER Paul Martin has filled the vacancies on the Supreme Court of Canada with two women who favour same-sex rights. The appointments of Ontario Court of Appeal justices Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron will be reviewed for the first time ever by a committee made up of seven MPs and two legal experts.

Abella is a human rights expert and Charron is a francophone who grew up in Ottawa. Their appointments brings to four the number of women on the Supreme Court, a historic high.


The committee won't be able to interview Abella and Charron or veto the government's choice, having to settle instead for grilling Justice Minister Irwin Cotler about why the government gave them the nod.

Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay, a member of the review committee along with fellow Tory MP Vic Toews, called the process "a farce" yesterday.

"This is a done deal. The draft pick has been made and we are now being given an opportunity to simply provide commentary and interact with the minister after the fact," he said.

"Prior to the election, the prime minister was very keen ... in having these nominees appear in a parliamentary committee. After the election, the scene changes, the rules change, another promise broken," Toews said.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler denied Abella and Charron were chosen because they were women and pro-gay rights. The Supreme Court is poised to rule on the definition of marriage this fall.


"It was merit that determined the two outstanding nominees. We did not inquire into issues of ideology ... and we looked at the full appreciation of their judgments and their writings, which speak for themselves," Cotler said.

Cotler said neither Abella or Charron were consulted about whether they would be prepared to meet with the committee.

"We want greater openness, and greater parliamentary input, while at the same time protecting the independence of the judiciary and the integrity of the court," Cotler said.