Not Quebecois enough

The Nadon case before the Supreme Court concerns the qualifications of the Prime Minister’s latest appointee. The Supreme Court Act shows it to be an open-and-shut case. Why then the fuss?

First the law. Section 5 of the Supreme Court Act says:

 Any person may be appointed a judge who is or has been a judge of a superior court of a province or a barrister or advocate of at least ten years standing at the bar of a province.

“is or has been”…”a barrister or advocate of at least ten years standing at the bar of the province”.

 At least three of the judges shall be appointed from among the judges of the Court of Appeal or of the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec or from among the advocates of that Province.


Mr. Nadon has practiced law at the Bar of Quebec for more than twenty years, before being made a judge of the Federal Court. Case closed. This case does not involve deep law, ambiguous doctrine, or the reconsideration of some previous point where one would want the Court to carefully consider how far civil liability goes in areas of risk. It is as plain on its face as you can read.

So why the fuss? Rocco Galatti, the Toronto left wing lawyer did not like Nadon’s deference to government in the Khadr case. But the government of Quebec? Read the statement of its lawyer before the Supreme Court yesterday.

The federal proposal, said Mr. Fauteux, is “absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable for Quebec.”

A justice from Quebec, he said, needs a contemporary link to the province and an understanding of the present culture to adequately represent the province.

“It’s not a question of whether a person knows civil law or knows Quebec jurisprudence or case law, but rather it’s a question that a person comes from an environment, milieu, made up of different elements,” he said.

Translation:” the judge has to be as much a representative of Quebecois tribal interests as we, the government of Quebec, deem necessary”. He must come from an environment, a milieu, that we approve of, and the Federal Court and Ottawa and living in Ottawa clearly does not suffice. Only he cannot say this, because then the Quebec government’s scheme of ethnic self-preference would be exposed. Its a nudge-nudge, wink-wink position.

Andrew Coyne’s musings today  “Maybe fighting was the point” provide no insight into what is, simply put, a reaction by the Usual Suspects to anything Harper does. Coyne holds the Prime Minister to a standard higher than any appointing power is required to achieve, “whether he was the best or even an appropriate choice for the job.” Nadon is manifestly appropriate, as were maybe a score of other judges in the country. Whether he is the “best”, according to the exacting standards of Andrew Coyne, is immaterial. I strongly believe that Coyne would not  expect the same standard of a Liberal Prime Minister’s appointment. I recognize that Coyne has a problem I do not: he must fill newspaper column-inches with something to cause reader reaction and comment. Nevertheless, unless he wishes to pass over into the self-regarding fatuity of Jeffrey Simpson, he had better adopt a little humility. It is not about you, Andrew.