Keep Atlantic Representation On Top Court, Says Canadian Bar Association

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JODY WILSONRAYBOULD
Adrian Wyld/CP
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The head of the group representing Canada's judges and lawyers is calling on the federal government to continue to ensure all regions of the country, including Atlantic Canada, are represented on the Supreme Court of Canada.

Janet Fuhrer, the president of the 36,000-member Canadian Bar Association, said in a letter Wednesday to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould that the Supreme Court should embrace all aspects of Canada's diversity.

"Our highest court must continue to represent all regions of Canada, including Atlantic Canada," wrote Fuhrer.

jody wilsonraybould
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould speaks at a press conference in Ottawa on June 30, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

"Consequently, we urge you to amend the mandate of the advisory board outlined in your Aug. 4, 2016, letter, to ensure that the Atlantic Canada vacancy is filled by a meritorious candidate from that region."

The association's comments come following Trudeau's announcement last week of changes to the process for applying to the top court.

Those changes included opening the process so any qualified Canadian lawyer or judge who is functionally bilingual and "representative of the diversity of our great country" can apply.

But absent was any assurance that the advisory board recommending candidates would continue with the long-standing custom of ensuring Atlantic Canada would have at least one member on the top court.

Justice Thomas Cromwell, a Nova Scotian and the only justice hailing from the Atlantic provinces, will retire from the bench in September.

The Prime Minister's Office confirmed that there is no guarantee that Cromwell's seat will go to someone from the region, though Wilson-Raybould said during an interview with CBC's Power & Politics that regional representation will be kept in mind during the selection process.

Atlantic leaders disappointed

Political leaders in Atlantic Canada have questioned the lack of commitment to representation, with both Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Andrew Parsons expressing their disappointment.

Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, a native Cape Bretoner, said the Liberals were treating the region like a "backwater."

Wilson-Raybould is scheduled to appear in Ottawa before the standing committee on justice and human rights Thursday to discuss the new process for selecting Supreme Court justices.