Skip to main content

The Parti Québécois government, gearing up for a possible election and therefore especially anxious to attack Ottawa, has launched a legal challenge against Justice Marc Nadon's appointment to the Supreme Court.

The PQ claims that Justice Nadon has been living outside Quebec for a long time, hasn't sat on a Quebec court (he sat on the Federal Court) and hasn't practised law in Quebec for two decades. As such, the PQ insists that Justice Nadon, who sat on the Federal Court, does not meet the special requirements for the three civil law judges from Quebec guaranteed under law for the Supreme Court.

The Quebec challenge misses the telling point: Justice Nadon is undoubtedly a nice man and perhaps a competent judge, but he is not qualified enough to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada. Residency questions aside, his record in law and on the bench does not make him what the Supreme Court needs. His is at best an ordinary appointment, and at worst sub-par.

Story continues below advertisement

The workload of a Supreme Court judge is a killer, especially the preparation and writing of judgments. Yes, there are clerks who help justices perform their tasks. But judging at the very highest level is intellectually challenging and of consequence for all Canadians.

We live with Supreme Court rulings in our daily lives. The institution helps shape the country. Supreme Court judges are often around longer, sometimes much longer, than elected officials. Only the very best will do.

Justice Nadon was a supernumerary judge at the age of 64. For those not familiar with the term, it means he was part-time. Supernumerary judging is one of the biggest boondoggles in the public sector. It allows judges, after a period of full-time service, to collect salaries while working only part-time.

Going supernumerary is what many judges do when they want partial retirement. If Justice Nadon was in semi-retirement at 64, how is he going to handle a Supreme Court judge's workload?

Justice Nadon practised law in Montreal before his appointment to the Federal Court. Nothing in his practice suggests the kind of career that characterized Supreme Court justice John Sopinka, who was one of Canada's top litigators. Nor does it compare to the outstanding litigation career of Guy Pratte, another potential Supreme Court nominee.

Justice Nadon has no record of academic contributions to the law, unlike Nicholas Kasirer, the former law dean at McGill. He did not serve on the Quebec Court of Appeal, which usually deals with far broader issues than the Federal Court. Civil law cases are more likely to bubble up through the provincial court system than the Federal Court, and Quebec judges on the Supreme Court must be among the best at civil law.

There have been previous nominees from the Federal Court, but most have been people of remarkable accomplishment. Frank Iacobucci, for example, moved up from the Federal Court, but he had been federal deputy minister of justice, vice-president of the University of Toronto and a law scholar of note. On the Supreme Court, he wrote decisions that shaped the country, such as extending equality rights protection for gays.

Story continues below advertisement

It is said that Justice Nadon has a special knowledge of maritime law. Which is good, except that maritime law cases might make it to the Supreme Court once in a quarter-century.

He did pen a decision siding with the federal government in a case involving convicted Canadian terrorist Omar Khadr. Perhaps this recommended him to a "law and order" government – who knows? All the government keeps saying is that he is well-qualified, without pointing to a single thing in his career that makes it so.

There were very highly qualified judges in Quebec – many of them female – who lawyers and law professors believed had earned a Supreme Court nod. It could be that they were asked and did not want to move to Ottawa.

The Commons committee charged with questioning Justice Nadon was given just two days to prepare and flubbed the job by not asking hard questions. The country's law associations and professors knew so little about such an unknown judge that they fell silent. The Supreme Court deserves better.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter