Canadian Judicial Council won’t appeal harsh ruling of its investigation of judge

Canadian Judicial Council won’t appeal harsh ruling of its investigation of judge

TORONTO — The Canadian Judicial Council says it will not appeal last week’s Federal Court ruling that harshly criticized its investigation of a justice who accepted a temporary deanship of an Indigenous-focused law school.

The council says in a news release that an appeal of the decision that cleared Ontario Superior Court Justice Patrick Smith would not be in the public interest, and that all aspects of the order will be complied with promptly.

The release further notes Smith’s case and the ruling “have continued to shine a light on the urgent need to move forward with reforms to the Judges Act.”

The council investigated Smith for taking leave from the bench in 2018 to become temporary dean of the Bora Laskin law school at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont.

A judicial council review panel concluded Smith had violated Section 55 of the Judges Act, but Federal Court Judge Russel Zinn cleared Smith last week and rapped the Canadian Judicial Council for abusing its powers.

The council says in the release that its chairperson, the Right Honourable Chief Justice Richard Wagner, has “urged the government to proceed with vital legislative changes” for dealing with judicial conduct complaints, which it says it understands are “imminent.”

“Upon my appointment as Chief Justice of Canada and Chair of the Canadian Judicial Council, it was clear to me that procedures for dealing with judicial conduct complaints were too slow, opaque, and out-of-date,” Wagner stated in the release.

“I am pleased that we are getting closer to real, positive reforms that will support transparency, integrity, and the best interests of all Canadians.”

Smith’s lawyer, Brian Gover, called on the council for an apology after Zinn’s ruling, but Monday’s statement from the council didn’t contain one.

Smith had cleared his acceptance of the law school posting with his own chief justice, who in turn had cleared it with the federal justice minister.

Although it had received no complaints, the council investigated Smith and a judicial council review panel concluded he had violated Section 55 of the Judges Act, although it found he had no improper motives.

Among other things, the act requires judges to devote themselves exclusively to their judicial duties and to avoid involvement in controversy or public debate that could expose them to political attack.

Zinn, however, found the Judges Act does not prohibit judges from taking on non-judicial roles, and faulted the council’s executive director for even looking into the issue based ostensibly on a straightforward media report that had no criticism of Smith’s appointment.

Smith resigned his university position in light of the proceedings.

The council said Monday that the judicial conduct reforms are part of a larger a larger renewal initiative it is undertaking, with the aim of “enhancing public confidence in the judiciary, generally.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Law and justice

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo)
Alberta records 410 COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

file photo
Maskwacis RCMP investigate pedestrian fatality

Collision on Highway 2A causing fatality still under investigation.

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Most Read