OTTAWA — Malcolm Rowe, who has been tapped by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join the Supreme Court of Canada, sat down for a wide-ranging, question-and-answer session with MPs and senators at the University of Ottawa on Tuesday.
Here are some of the Newfoundland and Labrador judge's thoughts and exchanges.
Sen. Mobina Jaffer said it is unacceptable that not a single person of colour sits on the Court's and asked how Rowe could represent all Canadians.
"I have sought to absorb and I have sought to understand and all I can do personally is seek to bring the understanding that I've gained from speaking with others, from understanding their circumstances, to bear as best I can," said Rowe.
"The composition of the court is not in my hands. The composition of the court is in the hands of others. All I can do, is to do the best that I can in terms of being mindful, being sensitive and being aware and not disappearing into an ivory tower, but to maintain a connection with people throughout the country in big cities, small towns, North."
ON THE ROLE OF VICTIMS
"There has been a very significant change over the past few decades to deal with the forgotten party in crime and that is the victim," said Rowe, adding that victims play an important role.
For judges, Rowe, said, "The principle issue is guilt or innocence. ... In the course of arriving at that, you have to be sensitive to the situation of the person who has brought the complaint and you have to try and ensure there is a fair hearing and it's not distorted by things like myths relating to prior sexual conduct and the like," he said.
ON ACCESS TO JUSTICE
"The component which the courts themselves deal with is where the judges have to focus: procedure, costs, being flexible in terms of how people appear, looking for ways to encourage law firms to provide pro bono advice, things like this," said Rowe.
"The courts have a part to play, but they're by no means the only actors. It's governments and legislatures as well, but we have to play our part in a co-ordinated way."
ON RECONCILIATION WITH FIRST NATIONS, METIS AND INUIT
"Public awareness, an acceptance of the reality that has occurred, the damage that has occurred, the need to rebuild, the need to give again a place of meaning and autonomy for indigenous peoples — I guess that's where it starts, but in terms of moving forward through institutions, it's governments and indigenous leadership," said Rowe.
"The courts could make a mistake if they move too quickly to define things that are better defined on a nation-to-nation basis, always bearing in mind that everyone has a right to go to court and have their rights vindicated."