OTTAWA – The new chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada says the system for dealing with complaints of serious misconduct by judges needs an overhaul.
As Richard Wagner was officially welcomed to his new position today he took advantage of the presence of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal justice minister to point out shortcomings in the existing process.
Wagner was named chief justice in mid-December to replace the retiring Beverley McLachlin.
He gave a number of insights into what he expects from his tenure in the position at a ceremony marking his appointment.
As an example, he suggests that courts must more carefully weigh the rights of accused persons against a country’s desire to fight terrorism.
But the new chief addressed the prime minister and Justice Minister Judy Wilson-Raybould directly in pointing out the failings of the system used by the Canadian Judicial Council in resolving complaints against judges.
“It has become increasingly evident that our procedures for dealing with serious judicial conduct complaints are out-moded, slow and opaque,” Wagner said, without citing specific examples.
Wagner added that the court system, in general, needs to be updated to reflect a desire for increased openness.
“While Canadians expect transparency and accountability, we continue to operate under 1970s models of judicial administration,” he said.
Wagner noted that his predecessor, McLachlin, had already begun to talk about the need for change as she approached retirement and said he wanted to carry on the conversation about reforms.
“I look forward to pursuing that important work in partnership with the prime minister and the minister of justice in the very near future,” said Wagner.
“This will only make our legal system stronger and more responsive to Canadians’ needs.”