March 26, 2019 11:24 pm

‘Most appalling’: Manitoba Bar Association blasts reports about Wilson-Raybould’s Supreme Court pick

WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that Canadians "can have faith" in their judicial system after a report that Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould sparred over their picks for chief justice of the Supreme Court.


The Manitoba Bar Association (MBA) has issued a blistering statement in support of a top judge after reports relayed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s concerns about him when Trudeau’s ex-attorney general recommended the judge be elevated to Canada’s highest court.

On Monday, leaks by anonymous sources to CTV News and The Canadian Press suggested that Jody Wilson-Raybould had recommended Glenn Joyal, chief justice of Manitoba’s highest trial court, be made chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), despite not holding a seat on that bench.

WATCH (March 25): Trudeau says it’s up to Wilson-Raybould, Philpott whether to speak in House

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That recommendation became a point of “significant disagreement” with Trudeau, who was concerned about Joyal’s views on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the sources said.

The reports drew condemnation from bar associations, who raised concern about whether the confidentiality of the judicial selection process had been compromised. Opposition MPs also spoke up, saying the reports smacked of “desperation” and that they represented an effort to draw attention away from the SNC-Lavalin affair.

The MBA defended Joyal in its statement, saying it was “entirely improper and, indeed, false” to suggest that he could “give rulings that would undermine the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ2S community.”

“Chief Justice Joyal is a highly respected jurist who has defended Canada’s political legal culture and has spoken out in favour of both a strong judiciary and, equally, a strong legislative branch,” the statement from MBA president Mark Toews said.

“Nothing in what he has done throughout his judicial career, nor in the publicized comments he has made, could suggest that he is against a woman’s right to choose, same-sex marriage or LGBTQ2S rights generally. It is most appalling that such an inaccurate description has been suggested or implied.”

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

Joyal had previously criticized the judiciary for having interpreted charter rights broadly, such that they had been expanded to apply to matters that weren’t mentioned in the document.

Those interpretations have helped to enshrine rights such as a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage — both issues on which Trudeau has focused closely.

Joyal delivered a speech to the Canadian Constitution Foundation’s Law and Freedom Conference in 2017, in which he remarked that the SCC had usurped the primary role that elected legislatures play in enacting social policy.

WATCH (March 22): Wilson-Raybould provides evidence to justice committee

This, he said, had resulted in a “less potent and less influential legislative branch that seldom has the final word.”

Joyal also criticized how Canada’s top court has interpreted Section 7 of the charter, which guarantees everyone “the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

The SCC had struck down Canada’s abortion law under this section. The court had also struck down a ban on medically-assisted death.

Joyal said the court’s interpretation of Section 7 “has become, particularly in recent years, the single most fertile source for the discovery of new rights and the de facto constitutionalization of political and social issues.”

WATCH (March 22): Wilson-Raybould provides evidence to justice committee

Joyal issued his own statement on Monday, saying that he had applied for the job of Supreme Court justice but ultimately withdrew because his wife had metastatic breast cancer.

He went on to say: “I fear that someone is using my previous candidacy to the Supreme Court of Canada to further an agenda unrelated to the appointment process.

“This is wrong.”

READ MORE: Morneau says fate of Wilson-Raybould, Philpott ‘will come down to caucus’

Asked Tuesday why he felt that Joyal was the wrong choice for chief justice of the SCC, Trudeau said Canadians can “continue to have confidence in their judicial system, in the way we operate as a government, the way Canadians know that we can have a strong and independent judiciary.”

He would not comment further on the matter.

—With files from the Canadian Press

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