National News

Working with Que. on top court judge: MacKay

By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Justice Minister Peter MacKay is striking a conciliatory tone on the federal government's forthcoming picks for the Supreme Court, saying he hopes Ottawa and Quebec can come to an agreement on the names.

The naming last year of Marc Nadon, a semi-retired Federal Court of Appeal judge, went over poorly in Quebec, where the provincial government argued Nadon did not qualify. The Supreme Court of Canada ultimately agreed.

"I can confirm that we've been in very close consultation with the new government, as with the previous provincial government, and that they have provided us names," MacKay said Wednesday.

"And we are looking for a consensus that would include a name from that list. ... So clearly, our list and their list are being examined in concert to find a common name."

MacKay is also consulting Quebec's legal community, as has happened in the past.

Nadon's appointment was deemed ineligible and unconstitutional because he was not a current member of the Quebec bar, leaving the vacancy on the top bench as yet unfilled. Justice Louis Lebel's retirement this fall will create another.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, fresh from a meeting with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on Wednesday, said the federal government should have listened to Quebec's opinions on the matter from the beginning.

"I think the situation that the prime minister finds himself in right now is one entirely of his own making, where he refused to listen and respect Quebec's recommendations around Supreme Court nominations," Trudeau said in Quebec City.

"Therefore we've gone an awful long time with an incomplete Supreme Court and I'm very pleased to see indications the justice minister will now pay attention to the list Quebec generated through robust consultation and be much more respectful of Quebec."

"And I think that's the kind of process we need more of in the future."

MacKay would not go into detail on how the process for the appointments would unfold, but said the first vacancy would be filled before the end of summer. He said the shortlist has been rendered shorter by the Supreme Court's ruling on Nadon.

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said in the National Assembly earlier this week that her government intends to play a "proactive role" on the issue of Supreme Court justices.

"And that proactive role will be in a spirit of co-operation and not confrontation," Vallee said.

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