The appointment of an Ontario judge who is seen as an opponent of pro-choice and gay rights has created a stir among social activists.
Spokesmen expressed concerns yesterday about the appointment of Mr. Justice David Brown, a Toronto lawyer who has represented Christian family-value positions in several cases, and has written papers dealing with legal developments involving the sanctity of life.
Judge Brown will sit on the Ontario Superior Court bench in the Toronto region.
"What we are seeing is something we predicted: The Harper government intends to follow in the footsteps of the Bush government in the U.S. with measures like this," said Carolyn Egan, a spokeswoman for the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.
"In these situations, you find that they not only work for these organizations," Ms. Egan said. "From what we understand, he [Judge Brown]holds these views himself. I think people should be aware of the views he has and how they could potentially impact on future decisions."
Shayna Hodgson, a spokeswoman for Toronto's Morgentaler abortion clinic, reacted with dismay to the appointment. "Slowly, in a stealthy way and under the radar, the Harper government is taking a page from the book of their brothers and sisters in the U.S.," she said.
Ms. Hodgson said the pro-choice movement has been beaten back in the United States by tactics such as appointing judges who oppose abortion and by introducing laws that change the age of consent and rules for notifying parents.
However, Campaign Life Coalition spokeswoman Mary Ellen Douglas said that the courts are packed with judges appointed by Liberal governments, much to the delight of left-leaning pressure groups.
"So long as everything is going their way, they're happy," she said in an interview.
"It's high time we had some balance on the bench. All the judges who have been appointed had the same left-wing agenda as the people who are complaining now. I think it's refreshing to finally have some balance."
While Judge Brown's main area of legal expertise is energy, he has shown considerable interest in issues surrounding the sanctity of life: abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide. He also represented Focus on the Family (Canada) and REAL Women of Canada in a court intervention against the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.
Gilles Marchildon, executive director of the gay-rights organization Egale Canada, said: "From the information we have gathered so far, it would seem that he is very qualified and has a great depth of experience. But we're concerned that he seems to have been involved in representing opponents of equality in virtually every big lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans case there has been."
Judge Brown acted in defence of anti-abortion demonstrators barred from going close to abortion clinics. He also acted for REAL Women in defence of the right to spank children several years ago.
A newsletter from the organization later praised his "eloquent arguing in support of the important role of the family in raising children and the obligations of parents to correct their children."
Reached at his former law office at the firm of Stikeman Elliott yesterday, Judge Brown said he could not respond to any questions.
"In my past incarnation, I would speak to you," he said. "In my present incarnation, you would have to speak to Chief Justice Heather Smith."
However, Chief Justice Smith could not be reached for comment.
The government has also come under fire this week in regard to another of the 10 judges it appointed on Monday: Mr. Justice Jacques Léger. Judge Léger, a former Conservative Party president, was appointed to the Quebec Superior Court.