A lawyer who contributed $2,900 to Justice Minister David Lametti’s Liberal nomination bid and driving affiliation has acquired a judicial appointment, sources inform Radio-Canada.
Montreal lawyer Philippe Bélanger was appointed to the bench by means of a prolonged course of that triggered tensions between the Prime Minister’s Office and Lametti’s workplace, sources stated. One particular person concerned within the course of referred to as it “Kafkaesque,” whereas one other stated the appointment took for much longer than regular to get by means of the approvals stage.
The supply of that pressure was not the deserves of appointing Bélanger to the Quebec Superior Court. Bélanger, a associate at McCarthy Tétrault, is certainly one of Canada’s high specialists in chapter legislation and enjoys a robust popularity in authorized circles, stated sources in authorities and the authorized occupation.
Instead, the PMO was involved in regards to the optics surrounding the appointment, the sources stated — the monetary donations and the actual fact Bélanger and Lametti each clerked on the Supreme Court on the identical time.
Under hearth from opposition MPs and authorized specialists over allegations of partisanship and favouritism in judicial appointments, stated the sources, the Trudeau authorities needed to keep away from giving its critics recent ammunition.
Under the present judicial appointment course of, the justice minister is chargeable for recommending a candidate for approval by cupboard, following a due diligence course of overseen partly by the PMO.
In a press release to Radio-Canada on Wednesday night, Lametti’s workplace stated the minister determined to proactively carry the matter to the eye of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion.
“As the individual was a professional acquaintance and had made political donations to him prior to his appointment as Minister of Justice, the Minister felt that it was important to seek the advice of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner,” stated press secretary Rachel Rappaport.
“The Commissioner reviewed the situation and determined that there was no conflict of interest in this instance…. Following receipt of the Commissioner’s determination, the Minister provided his recommendation to cabinet in the usual fashion.”
‘Potential for a scandal’
François Landry — a political aide who was working instantly on the judicial appointment course of in Lametti’s workplace final yr — wrote a memo to chief of workers Rachel Doran on Feb. 18, 2019, warning that partisan concerns within the appointments course of have created the “potential for a scandal.”
According to Elections Canada, Bélanger donated a complete of $1,400 to Lametti’s bid for a Liberal nomination in 2014 and 2015. Lametti was elected within the driving of LaSalle-Émard-Verdun later in 2015.
Records additionally present that Bélanger gave $1,500 to the Liberal driving affiliation in LaSalle-Émard-Verdun in 2018. According to Bélanger’s postal code within the Elections Canada database, he lives within the driving of Mount Royal.
According to Elections Canada, Bélanger made greater than $10,000 in different donations to the Liberal Party between 2006 and 2019.
Lametti grew to become justice minister in early 2019, changing Jody Wilson-Raybould.
‘Partisanship in reverse’
Laval University legislation professor Patrick Taillon stated the federal government appears to be paying a value now for Canadians’ insecurity within the federal nomination course of.
“We have a case of partisanship in reverse,” he stated. “This goes to prove that an imperfect process sows doubt on the outcome.”
Taillon stated that making political donations is a “fundamental right” and will neither support nor drawback a candidate.
“It should be a question of merit,” he stated. “Having political ties should not be taken into account, in that it is a fundamental right to be able to give to a political party.”
In an open letter dated Nov. 6, the Canadian Bar Association stated the federal appointment course of might give rise to allegations of partisanship and will undermine the boldness of Canadians of their judiciary.
“It is time to make the system less open to manipulation,” stated the letter, signed by CBA president Brad Regehr.
The CBA stated there may be nothing incorrect with attorneys making monetary contributions to political events — however these donations shouldn’t be factored into the number of new judges.
“By continuing a process that is open to speculation about political interference, the government risks eroding the confidence of the public in the independence and fairness of the justice system itself — particularly in marginalized communities that already feel the system doesn’t work for them,” the letter stated.
On Monday, Democracy Watch filed a problem of the appointment course of within the Federal Court, alleging that it is undermining the independence of the judicial system.
“The current federal judicial appointment system is open to too much political interference by the ruling party, which violates the independence of the courts that is needed to ensure democratic good government and fair law enforcement for all,” Duff Conacher, co-founder of the advocacy group, stated in a information launch.
In the coming weeks, the justice committee of the House is anticipated to launch a examine of the judicial appointment course of. The Bloc Québécois has ready a movement to that impact and has received the help of the opposite opposition events, which collectively maintain a majority of seats on the committee.
Reached by e mail, Bélanger stated he couldn’t touch upon the matter.