OTTAWA — All Canadians must be able to see themselves in the justice system to have faith in how it works, says the veteran Alberta judge selected to fill a seat on the country's top court.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday he has nominated Mary Moreau, chief justice of the Court of King's Bench of Alberta, to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Before her appointment to the Alberta court 29 years ago, the bilingual Moreau practised law in Edmonton, where she was born, handling civil, criminal and constitutional cases.
Moreau was also named a deputy judge of the Supreme Court of Yukon in 1996, and of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories in 2005.
She has long been involved in the profession at home and abroad through participation in educational efforts, judicial ethics initiatives and court modernization.
"I am confident that her impressive judicial career and dedication to fairness and excellence will make Chief Justice Moreau an invaluable addition to our country's highest court," Trudeau said in a statement.
Should Moreau's nomination be confirmed in coming days, a majority of the nine-member Supreme Court would be women for the first time in its 148-year history.
In response to a questionnaire submitted as part of her application for the job, Moreau cited her contribution to improving access to justice in both official languages in government institutions and the courts.
"I believe that my personal and work experience has helped me to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in Canada’s justice system," Moreau wrote in the questionnaire, portions of which were made public on Thursday.
"All Canadians should be able to see themselves reflected in their justice system in order to have faith in it."
Judges have a responsibility to hone their knowledge of legal and social context "to ensure respect, fairness and dignity for all members of society and to clearly and definitively eliminate myths and stereotypes," Moreau wrote.
She said French-Canadian music, literature, traditional songs and festivals enriched her life growing up in Western Canada.
"I learned the importance of my language in giving a voice to my culture, and of my culture in instilling in me a sense of belonging and identity," Moreau wrote.
"I also experienced the challenges that come with belonging to a minority group in a majority anglophone province."
In highlighting her skills as a jurist, Moreau cited cases dealing with language obligations of governments, scientific evidence, the importance of the mediation process in divorce cases and a sentencing matter involving Omar Khadr, a Canadian who had been imprisoned as a youth at a U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before being transferred to Canada.
The Supreme Court seat has been empty since Russell Brown announced his retirement in June, ending a probe by the Canadian Judicial Council into an allegation of misconduct.
The judicial council had been examining allegations from a January event in Arizona, where Brown was accused of being intoxicated and harassing a group of individuals, which he denies.
Members of the House of Commons standing committee on justice and human rights will take part in a special committee hearing next Thursday to learn more about Moreau's nomination.
Justice Minister Arif Virani and Wade MacLauchlan, chair of an independent advisory board for Supreme Court appointments, are expected to address the committee.
Committee members will then attend a question-and-answer session with Moreau, along with the Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs and a member of the federal Green Party. It is to be moderated by Érik Labelle Eastaugh, dean of the law faculty at the Université de Moncton.
Unlike the often confrontational confirmation hearings for Supreme Court judges in the United States, the Canadian process is intended to increase transparency and hold the government accountable for its selection.
The prime minister is expected to review and consider any views of the justice committee prior to finalizing the appointment.
Virani told reporters that Moreau has the ability to distil concepts into simple language and communicate them to Canadians, a skill that can foster confidence in the administration of justice.
Canadian Bar Association president John Stefaniuk welcomed the selection on Thursday.
"Justice Moreau's nomination represents an important step forward for gender equality," he said in a statement.
"The CBA considers that Justice Moreau will be a great asset to the Supreme Court of Canada, and we look forward to working with her."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2023.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press