OTTAWA — An experienced Quebec trial lawyer has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Suzanne Cote, who has been a member of the Quebec bar since 1981, is the first woman from private practice to be directly appointed to the Supreme Court.
She is head of the Montreal litigation group at law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.
“With her wealth of legal knowledge and decades of experience, Ms. Cote will be a tremendous benefit to this important Canadian institution,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. “Her appointment is the result of broad consultations with prominent members of the Quebec legal community and we believe she will be a valued addition to Canada’s highest court.”
The Conservatives said they consulted the Quebec government; Canada’s Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin; Quebec’s chief justice as well as the chief justice of the province’s superior court; the Canadian Bar Association; and the Barreau du Quebec.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court rejected Harper’s pick of Marc Nadon to join the high court’s justices, saying he didn’t meet its eligibility criteria.
The elevation of Nadon from the Federal Court of Appeal was ruled invalid in March on the grounds it violated Quebec-specific provisions of the Supreme Court Act.
Harper later nominated Quebec judge Clement Gascon to the Supreme Court. He formally took his seat last month.
Cote, whose appointment is effective Dec. 1, will fill a spot on the nine-member bench that will open up with the Nov. 30 retirement of Justice Louis LeBel.
Her elevation comes at a time when the Supreme Court has a number of high-profile cases on the horizon, touching on issues such as assisted suicide and the gun registry.
Originally from the Gaspesie, Cote has a law degree from the Universite Laval and has lectured at the Universite du Quebec a Rimouski and the Universite de Montreal.
McLachlin welcomed Cote’s appointment.
“Ms. Cote is appointed directly from the Bar of Quebec, after a distinguished career as an advocate,” she said in a statement. “She brings extensive expertise in commercial and civil law, as well as a wealth of experience in public law. I look forward to her contributions to the court.”