In December, the honourable Richard Wagner was named Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. As Chief Justice, he is Chairperson of the Canadian Judicial Council and the National Judicial Institute. At his swearing-in ceremony, CJ Wagner called for a new era of transparency at the Supreme Court and better awareness of the Canadian justice system to maintain the public’s faith in the legal system. He stated that the system for dealing with complaints of serious misconduct by judges has become “out-moded, slow and opaque”. With the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice in attendance, he told the assembled crowd that Canada continues to operate under a 1970s model of judicial administration and that while former Chief Justice McLachlin had begun to talk about the need for restructuring and reform, he would continue to pursue those discussions. The Council is eager to help Chief Justice Wagner realize this vision and is committed to exercising leadership to help improve judicial service across Canada.
In November 2017, the Inquiry Committee in the Girouard matter released a report in which it concludes that the judge attempted to mislead a previous inquiry committee by concealing the truth. Following deliberations with eligible Council members, in its report, the Council concluded that the judge’s integrity has been fatally compromised and that public confidence in the judiciary warrants a recommendation that he be removed from office. The inquiry process in this case has been completed and the file has been closed. For more information, please consult the Council’s news release.
In Budget 2017, the CJC was granted incremental funding of $2.7 million over five years starting in 2017-2018. The government also granted the CJC $0.5 million per year thereafter to provide judicial education, conduct and ethics programming to support federally appointed judges and allow for the modernizing of its aging information technology. The funding reflects the CJC’s requirements to meet its mandate obligations, keep pace with the evolving judicial environment, and support judicial independence. This funding allows the CJC to make strategic investments in its renewal of IT requirements to ensure the security of its information holdings. With this increased funding, the Council will have the opportunity to develop many innovative projects to address pressing issues and its priorities.
The Council has embarked on a review of the Ethical Principles for Judges booklet. More specifically, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics will examine the following themes:
In spring 2017, the Council was invited to speak to Parliamentarians on Bill C-337, the Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training Act. In its submission, the Council expressed that in keeping with established principles of judicial independence, control over education programs for judges must remain within the judiciary itself. The separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government rightly ensures that the first two branches respect the independence of the third. The Council offered suggestions about the proposed legislation and is taking steps to increase transparency about the scope and nature of judicial education programs.
The Council recognizes the need to take a broad look at professional development for judges in Canada and the related issues facing the judiciary. As such, it is examining its current policy on professional development to reflect evolving expectations regarding training offered to federally appointed judges in Canada. The CJC is also committed to being more transparent in regards to the type of training programs that are currently being offered. In fact, the Council has started to work on a project with the National Judicial Institute with the objective of informing the Canadian public on professional development for judges as well as the policies that govern their education.
Files reviewed by a Judicial Conduct Committee member
Files closed at the early screening stage
Irrelevant complaints received
Requests for reconsideration
*In 2015, the Review Procedures were amended to give the Executive Director the authority, at the stage of early screening, to close complaints that do not involve conduct, are trivial, vexatious, or are not in the public interest or the due administration of justice to consider.
The Council receives an average of 5 calls per day from the public wanting to discuss questions or concerns about judges, their legal matter, or the general justice system.
As members of the public are more frequently turning to the Council when difficult or controversial judicial matters arise, whether they are related to a federally-appointed judge or not.
Account for the majority of complainants as they may not understand the rules of the court or the judge’s role in controlling the proceedings.
Are the source of many complaints. In these instances, the proceedings are not well understood by the public as they are less formal, there is often no record, and the judge may be more invested in securing an outcome.
Please refer to the Council’s website for examples of complaints received
Transport and telecommunications
Professional and special services
Purchases, repair and maintenance
Materials and supplies
Acquisition and equipment
Other subsidies and payments
Total operating budget
© 2018 Canadian Judicial Council