June 25, 2014 2:56 pm

MacKay’s remarks on women judges disappoint Ontario’s attorney general

Ontario's attorney general Madeleine Meilleur (centre) in Toronto on Aug. 27, 2013.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO – Add Ontario’s attorney general to the list of people who have a bone to pick with Justice Minister Peter MacKay.

Madeleine Meilleur calls MacKay's recent remarks about female judges "very unfortunate" in this day and age - particularly when Ontario has elected its first woman premier.

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The Toronto Star reported that MacKay attributed the dearth of women on the bench to a lack of applications. He reportedly linked that lack of applications to a fear among women that they might be appointed to a circuit court, which entails more travel.

He also reportedly said during the same meeting that women have a special bond with their children.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended his justice minister Wednesday, saying MacKay’s comments have been unfairly characterized as sexist.

Meilleur says there are very competent women in Ontario and Canada who are able to be judges and province’s judicial bench is proof of it.

She noted that the chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice is a woman.

The federal process for judicial appointments is very different from Ontario’s, which includes a requirement that the advisory committee recognize the desirability of reflecting the diversity of the province’s population in the candidates they select, she said.

“We always look to make sure the judges represent the Ontario community,” Meilleur said.

MacKay, for his part, has said that he did not make the comments attributed to him in the Star report.

“In addressing a few dozen lawyers I took the opportunity to encourage MORE women and minorities to apply to be judges, to enable the federal government to promote them to the bench and thus to better reflect the diversity that is Canada today,” he said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

“That was the intent and tone of my remarks.”

MacKay found himself in hot water again Tuesday over Mother’s Day and Father’s Day emails to staff – one saluting mothers for holding down two full-time jobs at home and at work, the other lauding dads for raising “the next generation of leaders.”

Watch below: The Morning Show reacts to MacKay’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day messages

Minister of Labour and for the Status of Women Kellie Leitch, in Fredericton, N.B. on Wednesday, defended MacKay when asked about the mother/father messages.

“Our government has been very focused on making sure women are involved and active in all sectors of society, and given great opportunities,” said Leitch.

“Whether it be our GIC [governor in council] appointments–of which 31 per cent are women–or the number of federal court judges we have–that is over 33 percent now–or the 182 appointments of federal court judges are women…I am delighted to be one of 12 cabinet ministers in that cabinet that are women.”

With files from Global News’ Laura Brown

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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