Using Manitoba judge for political agenda disgraceful, says local lawyer

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Winnipeg last month. Randall Paull / Global News

The latest twist in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s conflict with former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has at least one Winnipeg legal expert seeing red.

According to reports, Wilson-Raybould recommended in 2017 that Trudeau nominate a conservative Manitoba judge, Glenn Joyal, to be chief justice of the Supreme Court.  Sources told The Canadian Press Trudeau was opposed to appointing Justice Joyal to the position.

Meanwhile, Joyal said in a statement he withdrew his application – which was supposed to confidential – due to his wife’s breast cancer and noted he was concerned he was being dragged into the discussion to further a political agenda.

Chief Justice Glenn Joyal in this photo taken in 2017. Handout

Longtime Winnipeg lawyer Robert Tapper, who says he has known Joyal professionally for years, told 680 CJOB Monday he was “disgusted” by the judge’s name being made public, allegedly by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

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READ MORE: ‘This is wrong’: ex-Supreme Court candidate says his candidacy is being used to further an agenda

“I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve been around for 46 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Tapper.

“If you’re going to have a spat over the possible application or appointment of a judge, you don’t name him publicly. That’s just frankly obscene, disgusting, and it’s despicable … to have leaked that name.”

Tapper said the suggestion that Joyal wasn’t given the job due to his perceived political views is a further disgrace.

“That particular judge withdrew his applications because of health reasons of his wife. To accuse him of being anti-charter – as I read the story – anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ… I know the Chief Justice personally and I know the latter two are nonsense.

“To accuse him of being anti-charter is just, frankly, it’s stupid and it’s also insulting.”

Manitoba Bar Association president Mark H. Toews says the reporting of the appointment process of judges is of “significant concern”.

“It is vital that any deliberations leading up to any appointment remain confidential,” Toews said in a statement to Global News.

“The recent breaches of confidentiality where the suitability of other candidates are discussed is highly disconcerting  It demeans the entire selection process, and is harmful to the privacy of individual applicants. “

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Toews also said it is “highly regrettable that Chief Justice Joyal was forced to respond and disclose deeply personal and confidential information.”

Trudeau faced renewed questions about the controversy during a morning event in Winnipeg Tuesday where he was trying to promote his government’s budget introduced one week ago.

He would not, however, say whether he rejected Wilson-Raybould’s 2017 recommendation for chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, instead stating repeatedly that Canadians could have confidence in how judges are chosen and that he had no further comment.

Tapper said he can’t understand why Joyal’s name came up at all.

“Why would they do that? Why would you slam somebody who had absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand?”

-With files from the Canadian Press

WATCH: Trudeau looking into solicitor-client privilege after Wilson-Raybould’s resignation

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Trudeau looking into solicitor-client privilege after Wilson-Raybould’s resignation

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