OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper took another shot Tuesday at filling a lingering vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada, naming Quebec Court of Appeal judge Clement Gascon to the high court bench.
The seat, one of three Supreme Court seats reserved for Quebec, has been vacant since the retirement last summer of Justice Morris Fish.
“Mr. Justice Gascon’s wealth of legal knowledge and experience will be of significant benefit to this important Canadian institution,” Harper said in a statement.
“His appointment is the result of broad consultations with prominent members of the Quebec legal community.”
The high court declared in March that Harper’s original appointee, semi-retired Federal Court of Appeal judge Marc Nadon, didn’t meet the specific criteria for Quebec judges as spelled out in the Supreme Court Act.
Gascon spent 10 years as a member of the Quebec Superior Court before joining the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2012.
He is a specialist in civil and commercial litigation and has lectured extensively in business and labour law in Quebec.
The court, which normally consists of nine members, has been short a justice for nearly a year, the vacancy being among the three seats reserved by the Constitution for jurists from Quebec.
Last month, the behind-the-scenes machinations of the appointment process bubbled to the surface, exposing an unprecedented — and ultimately very public — spat between Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Conservatives suggested McLachlin inappropriately tried to make contact with Harper to discuss potential legal problems with Nadon’s appointment.
A subsequent Globe and Mail report said it wasn’t just Nadon that prompted McLachlin to contact the government, but a shortlist of candidates that included no fewer than four Federal Court judges, even though it was far from clear whether such candidates would be eligible.
As part of the selection process, the government stacked the deck with Federal Court candidates in hopes of nominating a more conservative judge than it believed was otherwise available in Quebec, the report suggested.
Harper disclosed the appointment Tuesday while aboard a flight to Europe, but the news wasn’t released until after his plane touched down in Warsaw.
Harper will have one more Quebec vacancy on the Supreme Court to fill on Nov. 30 when Justice Louis LeBel steps down at the age of 75, after nearly 15 years on the high court.