By Frank Larue
The Prime Minister has a lot on his plate as the autumn leaves start to fall. There is the question of pipelines, of which he has hinted he will approve one, which one no one knows. There is also the Site C Dam project in British Columbia, which has been condemned by First Nation bands such as the West Moberly who live nearby the site. The Trudeau government were made well aware of the environmental risks by the native leaders, but still went ahead and issued permits pivotal to the dam’s construction. The courts will now decide whether Site C will be built of not.
Justin Trudeau has many decisions to make and one more decision will be whether to nominate an indigenous Supreme court judge. Nader Hasan, a lawyer and University of Toronto faculty of law adjunct professor told the Ottawa Citizen, “It’s important for the legitimacy of the judiciary to have a court that reflects the diversity of the nation.” There are strong signals that since Indigenous people are Canada’s largest minority they deserve representation.” It’s past time for an indigenous member of the court to be appointed.” Lorne Sossin, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School said. “I’m confident that there are potential nominees who are either being identified or have identified themselves that are before that committee, and I’m sure getting serious consideration as this process unfolds.”
Some of the potential women candidates are Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond the first aboriginal woman to serve on the Saskatchewan provincial court bench. Another strong contender is Jean Teillet the past vice-president and treasurer of the Indigenous Bar Association, founding president of the Metis Nation Lawyers Association and she is the great grand niece of Louis Riel. A male counterpart is Senator Murray Sinclair who was a former judge in Manitoba, as well as the chair of the Truth Reconciliation Commission, also high on the list.
The Prime Minister responding to the demand for more diversity on the bench said, “It’s not something we can suddenly do overnight, there is an awful lot of work to do in the lower courts to be able to get the diversity up, to be able to get more women to the bench. What we’re going to do with this new Supreme Court process is chose the absolute best possible Supreme Court Justice to serve Canadians, and keep in mind that we want to make sure that we are representing as many Canadians with that court as we possible can.”
Aboriginal people don’t always view courts as the podium for justice. Too many aboriginal people are in jail at this very moment. The Supreme court deals with land claims and larger issues and the Indigenous people have not always had justice on their side. In the words of the Prime Minister, “If you have this panel of nine white judges staring at you, and you are having all of your fights adjudicated by those persons, how legitimate is that institution in your eyes? The country has evolved people are looking for those perspectives.”