Harper nominates Marc Nadon for Supreme Court


OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper dipped into the ranks of the Federal Court of Appeal on Monday to nominate Justice Marc Nadon to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada.

The appointment marks the second time in two years that Harper has filled a Quebec-designated seat with a male appointment, once again raising questions about why he hasn’t done more to address the so-called gender imbalance on the country’s highest court.

Nadon’s appointment, which will likely be approved, would maintain a ratio of six men to three women on the high court.

Harper faced criticism last year when he appointed Quebec jurist Richard Wagner to the high court instead of a female candidate. Wagner replaced former justice Marie Deschamps.

Nadon’s nomination comes after the mandatory retirement of former justice Morris Fish this past August.

Harper will have a chance to address the gender balance next year when Justice Louis LeBel reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75, requiring yet another appointment.

That will mark a complete turnover of Quebec’s representation on the Supreme Court; three of the high court’s nine seats are reserved for the province.

Harper said Nadon was the best, most qualified candidate for the job.

“His nomination is the result of an extensive review process that included consultations with prominent members of the legal community in Quebec,” the prime minister said in a statement.

Nadon is, among other things, a recognized expert in maritime law. His selection by Harper comes after an all-party panel of MPs gave the prime minister a short list of three qualified candidates.

Nadon wrote a dissent in the Federal Court of Appeal’s split decision in the Omar Khadr case. Nadon sided with the Harper government and wrote that “Canada has taken all necessary means at its disposal to protect Mr. Khadr during the whole period of his detention at Guantanamo Bay.”

Nadon was overruled by two fellow jurists who ordered the government to request Khadr’s repatriation from the much-maligned U.S. military prison in Cuba. Khadr has since been brought to a Canadian prison but not before the government faced repeated criticism for not acting.

Nadon is expected to testify before a House of Commons committee prior to the start of the fall sitting of the court, set for next week.

Some legal observers had been expecting Harper to appoint a woman in order to even out the high court’s gender balance.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair walked the fine line Monday between praising Nadon as a worthy addition to the country’s highest court while recognizing the lack of overall female representation on it.

“This is the highest court in the land. And that has to reflect the population. Now, in 2013, to have twice as many men as women shows some inequality in terms of representation,” Mulcair said.

“We’re asking the government to be more careful in future in terms of the male-female representation on the court.”

Nadon has sat on the Federal Court of Appeal since 2001 after being appointed to the court’s trial division in 1993. He graduated from the University of Sherbrooke in 1973 and was called to the Quebec bar at year later. He worked two decades for a large Montreal law firm before becoming a judge.

Harper has now appointed five Supreme Court justices, following the same pattern he adopted in 2006: consulting a five-member committee of MPs, including three Conservatives and one each from the Liberals and NDP.

Nadon was one of three candidates on a list that was presented to Harper. The candidates were not ranked, and the names of the other two on the shortlist were not disclosed.

It was not known if any women’s names were on Harper’s list. Mulcair refused to address that issue directly, citing the confidentiality of the nomination process.

“We’re talking about appointments from a list. When you appoint someone, then that is done by someone who has to look at the composition of the court.”


Harper nominates Marc Nadon for Supreme Court

  1. Not a swipe against justice Nadon, but when was the last time the supreme court heard a substantive maritime law case?

    • Think North West Passage, a future maritime transportation route and Harper’s Great North legacy. Or not. It might just be “un adon” (a happy coincidence en français).

  2. Well even the most vigorous Harper critics have to admit that he has not been overtly political in his Supreme Court appointments.

  3. Critics like Sean Fine label any non-activist judge as “right wing”. What we see among all of Harper’s appointments thus far is a reluctance to move the courts further into the areas of jursidiction that at one time properly belonged to elected legislatures & the House of Commons. Harper’s appointees share the characteristic of being cautious moderates who are loathe to overrule legislation unless there is a clear-cut Charter violation. Vague references to the Charter’s equality provisions are no longer enough to overturn laws. So in that sense, he is quite right to call them “conservative”. That they are, conservative as in cautious about overruling elected officials, and reluctant to expand the Supreme Court’s reach beyond its traditional role. None of Harper’s appointees have been fire-breathing right wingers.

  4. It doesn’t seem like a co-incidence Harper managed to find a judge who dissented in a ruling in Khadr’s favour and sided with the government. Besides the current case, there is likely to be another because of the Supreme Court’s declaration that Canada was complicit in the illegal US process. Harper has vowed to fight any attempt to lessen Khadr’s punishment resulting from that process for his so-called “heinous” crimes.

    I don’t see any reason to think the judge wouldn’t be fair. It’s Harper’s vindictiveness and political interference I find disgusting. I don’t care if people sympathize with Khadr or hate him or whatever emotional reaction they have. I don’t like to like that kind of attitude toward anybody on the part of a government.

    Why should a prime minister and other politicians say anything about a case involving an individual that is before the courts, let alone trying to prejudice people with such a statement. Politicians are constantly refusing to comment on an issue because its supposedly wrong for them to comment on cases before the courts or under investigation, as in the Senate/PMO scandal. Why is it ok in this case? It’s not the first sign of political interference either.

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