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Justice Minister Rob Nicholson speaks with reporters at the Canadian Bar Association's annual conference in Halifax on Aug. 15, 2011.Andrew Vaughan

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, asked about the propriety of appointing fellow cabinet minister Vic Toews to the bench, said Monday that government ministers should not be ruled out for such appointments. Mr. Nicholson was at a question-and-answer session of the annual meeting of the Canadian Bar Association when the issue was raised.

Mr. Nicholson was pressed on why the government did not discount stories that arose earlier this summer that Mr. Toews, a Manitoba MP and Public Safety Minister, was going to be appointed to the Manitoba Court of Appeal on the basis it would be inappropriate to appoint a minister directly to the bench..

The Justice Minister described the question as "hypothetical," and did not mention the name of his cabinet colleague but spoke about his thoughts on such appointments.

He said he did not believe that certain individuals should be ruled out as judges. "I've never gone out of my way to say that certain groups of individuals – people who have served, for instance, in political office – that they should be eliminated or sit out or anything else," he told delegates.

"On a hypothetical basis, I have never gotten into the business of eliminating any individuals or groups of individuals."

Earlier this year, Mr. Toews's office rejected the prospect of the minister heading to the bench, with the minister's spokesperson noting, in a statement, that "every year stories come up saying that Minister Toews is retiring from politics and going to the bench."

The minister remained in his portfolio when the prime minister engineered a minor cabinet shuffle earlier this summer.

"If you're qualified to sit on the bench of this country and you want to contribute to this great country of Canada and our judicial system of this country, I say to those individuals, `Make the application and we'll go from there," Mr. Nicholson said.