An independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the Canadian justice system, and essential to upholding Canada's democratic values and the rule of law. Like other foundational elements of democracy, judicial independence is vulnerable to threats and its protection requires vigilance.
An essential part of The Advocates' Society's mission is to safeguard and promote judicial independence in Canada. To that end, the Society makes public statements and submissions on events, policies, or legislation that affect judicial independence.
The Advocates' Society Statement on Judicial Independence
Judicial Independence: Defending an Honoured Principle in a New Age
The Advocates' Society has developed a public statement on judicial independence, entitled Judicial Independence: Defending an Honoured Principle in a New Age
. This statement is a resource on:
- the importance of the principle of judicial independence;
- the origins, sources, and fundamental components of the principle; and
- the safeguards and the threats to judicial independence emerging in our society.
With this statement, the Society reaffirms its commitment to vigilance in defending the honoured principle of judicial independence. We call upon all members of the independent bar, and all citizens who care for the continued strength of Canada’s democracy, to share that commitment with us.
Judicial Independence: Defending an Honoured Principle in a New Age
L’indépendance judiciaire: Défendre un principe consacré dans une ère nouvelle
Submissions and Public Statements on Judicial Independence
Ontario Judicial Appointment Process: TAS defends judicial independence in the process for appointing judges in Ontario
On November 14, 2019, the Attorney General of Ontario Doug Downey advised that the provincial government was considering reforming the process for appointing judges to the Ontario Court of Justice. In response, The Advocates’ Society wrote to the Attorney General to emphasize how the current process fosters judicial independence, excellence, and diversity, as well as public confidence in Ontario’s judiciary. The Advocates’ Society also urged the government to engage in meaningful consultation with justice system stakeholders before any changes were made to the current system. Read the letter of The Advocates' Society, dated November 20, 2019, here
On February 27, 2020, the Attorney General announced the government's proposed reform of the process for appointing judges to the Ontario Court of Justice. In response, The Advocates' Society wrote to the Attorney General to thank him for consulting with The Advocates' Society and other justice system stakeholders prior to the announcement and to outline The Advocates' Society's concerns with the proposal. The Advocates' Society highlighted the risk that the changes would allow political patronage to play a role in the appointment process. Read the letter of The Advocates' Society, dated March 9, 2020, here
On February 16, 2021, the Attorney General introduced Bill 245, the Accelerating Access to Justice Act, 2021
, in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Read the version of Bill 245 at first reading here
. Bill 245 proposed a number of changes to Ontario’s justice system, including to the process for appointing provincial judges to the Ontario Court of Justice. The Advocates’ Society made submissions on Bill 245 to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly, in particular highlighting the impact of the proposed changes to the judicial appointment process on judicial independence and public confidence in the administration of justice. Read The Advocates’ Society’s submission to the Standing Committee, dated March 12, 2021, here
. On March 12, 2021, Anthony Moustacalis, Director on The Advocates’ Society’s Board of Directors, made oral submissions on this issue to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly.
Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (formerly Bill C-5)
On February 4, 2020, the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, in the House of Commons. The bill concerns judicial education in sexual assault law and social context. The Advocates’ Society made submissions on Bill C-5 to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Read The Advocates' Society's letter, dated April 14, 2020, here
. On September 25, 2020, Bill C-5 was re-introduced in the House of Commons as Bill C-3. Read the version of Bill C-3 at first reading here
. Read Bill C-3, as amended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, here
. Read Bill C-3, as passed by the House of Commons, here
The Advocates' Society previously made submissions on a prior version of this bill, Bill C-337. Read the bill here
. Read The Advocates' Society's letter to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs dated October 19, 2017 here
TAS defends judicial independence in the context of Alberta's Provincial Court Nominating Committee
On June 26, 2020, The Advocates' Society wrote to The Hon. Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s Minister of Justice, regarding recent changes to the membership of the Provincial Court Nominating Committee. TAS raised concerns that recent actions taken by the Minister with respect to the membership of the Nominating Committee risk undermining public confidence in the judicial system and the independence of the judiciary. Read TAS's letter here
TAS defends judicial independence from comments made by a member of the legislative branch
On February 10, 2020, The Advocates’ Society released a public statement regarding improper comments made by Mr. Yves-François Blanchet, MP and Leader of the Bloc Québécois, about the judges of the Federal Court of Appeal. The Advocates’ Society cautioned that such comments from members of the legislative branch can undermine public confidence in the independence of the judiciary. Read The Advocates’ Society’s press release in English
Judicial Appointments Process for the Supreme Court of Canada
In response to reports in the media that the Federal Government may abandon the Parliamentary Committee process for selecting judges to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, The Advocates’ Society struck a Task Force to examine the issue. Read the letter of The Advocates' Society to the Federal Minister of Justice dated January 30, 2015 here
Following the Federal Election in the Fall of 2015, The Advocates' Society made submissions to the Minister of Justice with regard to federal judicial appointments, including recommendations for a process to be followed for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of Canada as well as the provincial superior courts and courts of appeal. Read the letter of The Advocates' Society dated July 22, 2016 here
. Following the publication of the appointments process for Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, The Advocates' Society wrote to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice. Read these letters dated August 18, 2016 here
. Learn about the judicial appointments process for Federal Judicial appointments, including appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada, here
The Advocates' Society Defends Independence of the Judiciary
On February 8, 2017, The Advocates' Society addressed statements made by the President of the United States about United States District Court Judge James Robart. Read The Advocates' Society's press release here
. The Advocates' Society condemned the remarks as improper and a threat to judicial independence and authority, noting that respect for an independent judiciary by the executive branch is essential both in Canada and abroad.
The Advocates' Society Speaks Out Regarding Comments from the Prime Minister's Office about the Chief Justice of Canada
On May 4, 2014, The Advocates' Society issued an open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada concerning recent comments from the Prime Minister's Office regarding the conduct of the Chief Justice of Canada. The Advocates' Society's letter stated that the comments were unfounded, unfairly impugned the integrity of the Chief Justice, and served to undermine ordinary Canadians' respect and confidence in the proper administration of justice. Read The Advocates' Society's open letter here