Timeline of events in the unsuccessful Supreme Court nomination of Marc Nadon
Thursday, May 08, 2014 10:45 am
OTTAWA - A timeline of events in the rejected Supreme Court nomination of Marc Nadon:
April 22, 2013 — Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin meets with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to formally announce the pending retirement of Justice Morris Fish, effective Aug. 31, and to discuss the needs of the court.
June 11, 2013 — Government announces process to choose Fish's replacement, including consultations between the justice minister, the prime minister, the chief justice of Canada and others to determine a list of qualified candidates. List to be vetted by a selection panel of five MPs (three Conservatives, one NDP, one Liberal) who confidentially consult with the chief justice and others.
July 29, 2013 — McLachlin meets with the MP selection panel at their invitation to discuss the proposed list of candidates.
July 31, 2013 — McLachlin confidentially calls justice minister and the prime minister's chief of staff, Ray Novak. Her office later states the call was "to flag a potential issue regarding the eligibility of a judge of the federal courts to fill a Quebec seat on the Supreme Court."
August 17, 2013 — Justice Minister Peter MacKay, in an interview with the National Post, states, "There are provisions right now that could be interpreted as excluding federal judges from Supreme Court appointments."
Sept. 9 — Former Supreme Court judge Ian Binnie privately delivers an opinion commissioned by the government stating he believes Marc Nadon, a Federal Court of Appeal judge from Quebec, is eligible to sit on the Supreme Court.
Sept. 30, 2013 — Harper announces the nomination of Justice Nadon and says an ad hoc parliamentary committee of MPs would meet in 48 hours to pose questions to the nominee.
Oct. 2, 2013 — Ad hoc parliamentary committee questions Nadon following an opening address by MacKay, who states the nomination followed consultations with McLachlin, among others. MacKay also reveals government has opinion supporting the legality of the nomination, and says Binnie's opinion was corroborated by former Supreme Court judge Louise Charron and constitutional expert Peter Hogg.
Oct. 7, 2013 — Nadon sworn in as member of the Supreme Court of Canada. Toronto constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati applies to Federal Court of Canada to challenge Nadon's appointment the same day.
Oct. 17, 2013 — Quebec government announces it will also contest Nadon's appointment.
Oct. 22, 2013 — A Conservative omnibus budget bill includes changes to appointment qualification language in the Supreme Court Act. "This is what is called a declaratory provision which is meant simply to clarify what we believe is the proper interpretation of the existing act," says MacKay. Government sends reference to Supreme Court regarding constitutionality of Nadon's appointment and its Supreme Court Act change.
March 21, 2014 — Supreme Court finds 6-1 that Nadon appointment is contrary to Quebec-specific provisions in Supreme Court Act; finds changes to "composition of the Supreme Court" require unanimous constitutional amendment.
May 1, 2014 — National Post reports Conservative sources claiming McLachlin lobbied against Nadon's appointment. Supreme Court's executive counsel issues statement explaining McLachlin was consulted, flagged the eligibility question, but "did not express any views on the merits of the issue." The Prime Minister's Office then issues statement saying McLachlin "initiated" contact with justice minister and PMO, and that MacKay advised Harper that "taking a phone call from the chief justice would be inadvisable and inappropriate. The prime minister agreed and did not take her call," said PMO spokesman Jason MacDonald.
May 2, 2014 — McLachlin's office issues statement with timeline showing consultation took place well before Nadon's nomination: "Given the potential impact on the court, I wished to ensure that the government was aware of the eligibility issue.... It is customary for chief justices to be consulted during the appointment process and there is nothing inappropriate in raising a potential issue affecting a future appointment."
May 6, 2014 — NDP Leader Tom Mulcair asks Harper in the House of Commons to apologize to McLachlin "for his unprecedented and inexplicable attack on one of our most respected democratic institutions." The prime minister declines, responding: "It's because of our respect for the independence of the judiciary that the prime minister does not discuss an issue that might wind up before the court."