MONTREAL – Three out of the 14 candidates considered last fall to fill a vacant Supreme Court of Canada seat were Indigenous, according to a recently released report by the independent advisory committee for judicial appointments.
Among the groups lobbying for a member of the First Nations community to have a seat at the nation’s highest judicial body was the Indigenous Bar Association, which expressed disappointment in the government’s final choice.
In the end, Sheilah Martin of Alberta was nominated to fill a seat left vacant after the departure of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
The judicial appointment committee’s report reveals eight candidates were men compared with six women. Twelve were anglophone while two were francophone.
None of the non-Indigenous candidates declared themselves to be visible minorities.
The selection process was conducted in 2017. In order to maintain regional representation on the bench, only candidates from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, as well as the territories were considered.
Kept from the public were the two other names on the shortlist of three names sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, from which he chose Martin.
A representative from Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada confirmed to The Canadian Press the final shortlist would not be made public.
In comparison, the selection process that resulted in Malcolm Rowe’s appointment in 2016 was open to candidates across the country.
Thirty-one people were considered for the job, more than twice the number in 2017.
Kim Campbell, Canada’s 19th prime minister and the president of the appointment task force, told a legislative committee in December she expects an Indigenous person will one day become a member of the Supreme Court.
“I have no doubt there will be an Aboriginal person at the Supreme Court of Canada – an exceptional Aboriginal judge whose appointment will not require any compromise regarding the applicable criteria,” she said.
Campbell noted the current pool of Aboriginal lawyers in Canada is still limited.