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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Justice for All or Only for Some?

With the surprise retirement announcement of Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache today speculation will soon begin to mount about where his replacement might be found.

While Quebec is always well represented on Canada’s highest court other areas of the Country often have only one seat, if any, on the bench.

Bastarache hailed from New Brunswick, as did his predecessor, so the door is now open in Atlantic Canada for a new representative to be appointed.

The question is, after nearly 60 years as a province, will the government of Canada finally see fit to allow Newfoundland and Labrador to be represented in the judicial branch of government, or will the province be forced, once again, to sit on the outside looking in?

It’s a sad reality that political maneuvering and favouritism, some of it enshrined in official procedures, should play any part in who is selected to the Supreme Court, but it’s a reality that exists never the less.

It’s shameful that a Supreme Court justice would be selected for any reason other than his or her ability to perform their very solemn duties. The fact that regional or provincial lineage would play a role in the decision is sad, to say the least, and a slap in the face for any truly democratic soul.

Be that as it may, the reality Canadians face is that lineage does make a difference and if that’s the game that has been thrust upon us then we must live with (unless the Supreme Court were to make it illegal, like that’s going to happen).

As a result the Country is left to wonder which part of Atlantic Canada the next member of the bench will come from. Will it be New Brunswick again, three times in a row? What about Nova Scotia or PEI? Or will it be (dare I say it) Newfoundland and Labrador, the outcast that has never been welcomed into the Federal Judiciary, or the Country for that matter?

Naming a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice would go a long way toward convincing “some” in the province that they are finally being accepted in Canada. It would also make a statement that the Prime Minister is able to look beyond his current squabbles with the province.

Such a move would mean a lot in some circles, little in others, but regardless, it will never happen.

If the most accomplished judge in the Country were living in Newfoundland or Labrador today he would most certainly be overlooked.

If the only judge left alive in the entire Country were living in Newfoundland or Labrador today he would not be appointed (Ottawa would probably import one from Elbonia.)

If all Judges, Lawyers and Justices of the Peace around the globe were suddenly to be abducted by aliens, except for a brilliant legal scholar in Newfoundland or Labrador, Ottawa would most assuredly appoint an experienced dog catcher to the job.

After 60 years it’s a shame that the door still hasn't opened.

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