OTTAWA — Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is condemning leaks to media outlets this week about deliberations in 2017 to appoint a new Supreme Court of Canada justice, and she says the government should consider an investigation into who leaked the information.
“I strongly condemn anyone who would speak about or provide information on such sensitive matters,” she said. “This has to stop and given the seriousness of this matter I feel that there should be consideration of having some sort of investigation as to the source of this information.”
Wilson-Raybould made the comments in a statement emailed to the National Post, and first reported by CBC.
On Monday, two news outlets — CTV News and The Canadian Press — received leaks from confidential sources saying Trudeau had disagreed with Wilson-Raybould’s choice to replace Beverley McLachlin on the court in 2017. Wilson-Raybould had preferred Manitoba judge Glenn Joyal, the reports said, but Trudeau rejected that choice because he saw Joyal as too critical of how courts apply the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Trudeau eventually chose to appoint Alberta-based judge Sheilah Martin to the court instead. The leaked stories said Trudeau came to doubt Wilson-Raybould’s judgement over the episode, and it soured their relationship long before the SNC-Lavalin affair came up.
A day later, a Globe and Mail report contained another leak, this time saying that Wilson-Raybould preferred Joyal due to his “stand in favour of individual rights.” The report said the larger plan was to then appoint an Indigenous justice to replace Joyal as chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench.
Wilson-Raybould said she won’t comment on the accuracy of those reports, noting that Supreme Court appointment deliberations are supposed to be “highly confidential.”
“I do feel compelled to say that I have not — as some have suggested — been the source of any of these stories, nor have I ever authorized any person to speak on my behalf,” she said.
She said leaks about Supreme Court appointment deliberations “could compromise the integrity of the appointments process, our institutions and potentially sitting justices.”
On Wednesday, Conservative MP Lisa Raitt wrote to Federal Judicial Affairs Commissioner Marc Giroux — whose mandate includes protecting judicial independence — to ask for an investigation into the leaks.
“A plain reading of the facts strongly suggests that political actors have leaked the content of discussions regarding an appointment to Canada’s highest judicial body,” said her letter. “If indeed this is true, it is an egregious case of political interference and one that severely injures the independence of the judiciary.”
Giroux’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not respond directly when asked by a reporter on Tuesday whether his office was behind the leaks.
“Canadians can have confidence in our government’s respect for the institutions, for the Supreme Court,” he said. “Canadians have confidence in the strength of our judiciary in this country. And I have no further comment to make on this issue.”
David Lametti, Wilson-Raybould’s successor as justice minister and attorney general, posted a statement on Wednesday saying he’s “concerned” by the publication of details of the Supreme Court selection process, but did not address whether an investigation should be launched.
“The integrity of our process depends on confidentiality for all parties involved,” Lametti said in a Twitter post. “Canadians should have complete confidence in the administration of justice.”
Legal organizations have issued statements condemning the leaks. Canadian Bar Association President Ray Adlington said the breach of confidentiality “demeans the selection process and ultimately all those who hold the office of judge.”
The Manitoba Bar Association condemned the leaks and defended Joyal’s reputation as a judge — especially against the accusation in the leaked stories that Trudeau worried Joyal’s view of the Charter meant he might undermine gay rights or access to abortion.
“Nothing in what he has done throughout his judicial career, nor in the publicized comments he has made, could suggest that he is against a woman’s right to choose, same-sex marriage or LGBTQ2S rights generally,” said the statement from MBA President Mark Toews. “It is most appalling that such an inaccurate description has been suggested or implied.”
Meanwhile, the Commons justice committee has now received a highly-anticipated written submission from Wilson-Raybould, which is expected to lay out further evidence on whether she was inappropriately pressured to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution — including emails and texts to support her testimony.
Wilson-Raybould’s submission to the committee is expected to be made public soon, but first it has to be translated into French and reviewed for possible redactions on personal information, such as phone numbers.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the submission had not yet been distributed to MPs on the committee. Committee chair Anthony Housefather is seeking unanimous consent from the committee members by email on whether they can receive the submission before it’s translated.