Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould is adding her voice to calls for some kind of investigation into the leak of confidential information about the judicial appointments process to the Supreme Court amid the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
On Monday, unnamed sources reportedly told the Canadian Press and CTV that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been concerned about a recommendation from Wilson-Raybould to appoint Manitoba judge Glenn Joyal as chief justice of the Supreme Court back in 2017.
Judicial appointments are highly confidential. Names under consideration or reasons for passing on specific candidates are virtually never disclosed.
Wilson-Raybould said the leak jeopardized the process of judicial appointments and must be investigated.
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“I do feel compelled to say that I have not — as some have suggested — been the source of any of these stories, nor have I ever authorized any person to speak on my behalf,” she said.
She continued, adding, “This has to stop and given the seriousness of this matter I feel that there should be consideration of having some sort of investigation as to the source of this information.”
Lisa Raitt, Conservative deputy leader, also called for an investigation into the leak earlier on Wednesday.
Raitt highlighted the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada as a potential venue to conduct the probe, and said she had made a request.
“We thought this was appropriate to see if there was confidentiality breached in this matter, which we know there was,” said Raitt, adding she has not yet heard back from the office, but that this is also the first time a parliamentarian has made such a request.
She added that lawyers or judges applying for judicial appointments must be assured their applications will not be used for political purposes.
“That’s exactly what happened in this case,” she said, adding that having prime ministers cast judgments on the qualifications or merits of sitting jurists puts at risk the judicial process, which is at its core meant to be independent of partisan interests.
Marc Giroux, Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, responded to Raitt’s request for an investigation shortly after her comments to Global News and said the leak leaves him “deeply concerned and troubled.”
“The release of any such confidential information is wholly inappropriate,” Giroux wrote in the letter, a copy of which was shared with Global News.
“My office is the intermediary between the judiciary and the executive, and the Judges Act does not provide me with any investigatory power … I am therefore not in a position to accede to your request to investigate.”
Attorney General David Lametti also said he was concerned on Twitter but offered no indication of taking any action to determine the source.
The source in question was quoted as telling those outlets that Wilson-Raybould’s nomination of Joyal raised concerns about her judgment for Trudeau, who felt Joyal was too conservative and not committed to protecting the values associated with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such as access to abortion and LGBT rights.
The report appeared to question the assertions by Trudeau and his officials that Wilson-Raybould was removed from her post solely because the departure of former Liberal cabinet member Scott Brison in January 2019 prompted the need for a shuffle to feel his position.
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Trudeau has said repeatedly that if Brison had not left, Wilson-Raybould would still be attorney general.
However, the report indicated that Trudeau had already begun questioning her fitness for the role in 2017, when Joyal was among the names apparently being considered to fill the role of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court vacated by Beverley McLachlin.
In response, the Manitoba Bar Association, of which Joyal is a member, fought back with a blistering condemnation of the leak and the aspersions it argued had been cast on Joyal’s judicial career.
“The implication was given that Chief Justice Joyal could give rulings that would undermine the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ2S community. Such a suggestion is entirely improper, and indeed false,” said MBA president Mark H. Toews in a statement on Tuesday night.
“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.”
Trudeau was asked about the leak on Monday but would not condemn it.
Because of that, his lack of criticism about the unprecedented leak raised eyebrows and prompted questions about whether it could have come from his office.
A spokesperson for the prime minister denied that on Wednesday.
“We take the integrity of our institutions seriously,” wrote Chantal Gagnon, press secretary for Trudeau.
In the past, Trudeau has condemned anonymous sources who told the Canadian Press Wilson-Raybould was removed from her post as attorney general for being difficult to work with, and for being a thorn in the government’s side.
But in that case, he did so after several days of criticism and statements from Indigenous leaders, calling on him to issue a condemnation of the attack.
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