Gender balance at issue with Supreme Court vacancy


Prime ministers have been known to have something (or someone) up their sleeve as they choose a judge for the country’s most influential court.

Ever since Prime Minister Stephen Harper passed over several talented female candidates for a spot on the Supreme Court a year ago, many in Quebec’s legal community have been wondering if he would restore the court’s previous gender balance – probably with the scholarly Justice Marie-France Bich of the province’s Court of Appeal. But a Montreal lawyer says he hears from an insider that Mr. Harper has something unexpected in mind for the soon-to-be-filled vacancy.

“She’s a very intelligent judge who is likely to go further than the current Supreme Court in deferring to government agencies,”

“Just watch out. There’s going to be a surprise,” he was told. Like others in this story, the lawyer asked that his name not be used so he could speak freely.

Handicapping the behind-the-scenes contest for a spot on the Supreme Court is difficult without understanding the web of political considerations and traditions that might shape the Prime Minister’s choice of a replacement for Justice Morris Fish of Quebec, a persistent advocate for the rights of the accused, who retired at the end of August.

This will be Mr. Harper’s sixth appointment to the nine-member Supreme Court of Canada. He will probably make the appointment within a couple of weeks, when the court’s fall session begins – unless he wants the formidable Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin on his back for leaving the court a body short.

By law, the appointment must be from Quebec to keep the court’s complement from that province at three.

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This content has been updated on August 23, 2014 at 12:19.