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The Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa. (SEAN KILPATRICK FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
The Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa. (SEAN KILPATRICK FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Committee grilling new Supreme Court judge faces severe time crunch Add to ...

With just two days to learn everything they can about the newest Supreme Court judge, the members of the all-party committee that will grill Justice Marc Nadon on Wednesday don’t have much time to assess where he stands and how he thinks.

Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, a member of the committee, said he is trying to read judgments by Justice Nadon in areas in which Mr. Cotler has some familiarity. He did not wish to tip his hand by saying which ones, but Justice Nadon wrote important judgments related to Canadian terrorist Omar Khadr and Rwandan war criminal Léon Mugesera that fall smack in the centre of Mr. Cotler’s interests.

“We could have used more time,” the former Liberal justice minister said. “This is, such as it is. We have to deal with the time we have.”

Two days has been the norm between the announcement of a new judge and the hearing on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s watch. All three previous hearings under Mr. Harper have featured the same two-day preparation period.

In the United States, the Senate Judiciary Committee has four to six weeks to prepare for a hearing. The hearings last two to five days. Justice Nadon’s hearing is scheduled to last three hours. The Canadian committee has no power to reject the Prime Minister’s nominee.

Kathleen Mahoney, a law professor at the University of Calgary, called the hearings “window dressing.”

“How do you possibly prepare in such a short period of time?” she said. “I don’t know who this fellow is and I’m sure most people don’t. I’m just Googling him right now.”

David Schneiderman, a University of Toronto law professor, said a longer process would be a chance to “see if people had views about the quality of this appointment.”

The nationally televised hearings, which begin at 1 p.m., give Canadians an opportunity to gain insight into the new judge. The 64-year-old from Saint-Jérôme, Que., has spent the past 20 years on the Federal Court’s trial and appeal divisions. Two years ago he chose supernumerary status, which means he has been a part-time judge.

Mr. Harper created the first nomination hearing for the 2008 appointment of Marshall Rothstein of Manitoba. Memorably, Justice Rothstein said he was “panic-stricken” beforehand. Afterward, he told a group of law students that the “genie was out of the bottle,” and the new transparency was here to stay.

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