PM names ‘Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments’

By Cristin Schmitz

Law360 Canada (August 11, 2023, 4:35 PM EDT) -- With the clock ticking to fill the Supreme Court of Canada’s western/northern vacancy prior to the court’s fall session, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed the eight-person “independent advisory board” he is tasking with devising a shortlist of three to five candidates from which he plans to appoint the successor to Justice Russell Brown of Alberta, who stepped down in June.    

The latest Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments, for what will be Trudeau’s sixth Supreme Court appointment, is chaired by former University of New Brunswick law dean and ex-P.E.I. premier Wade MacLauchlan, who also chaired the board during the 2022 process that led to the appointment of Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin, the successor to Justice Michael Moldaver of Ontario.

The new advisory board comprises also:

  • University of Windsor law dean Reem Bahdi;
  • Former chief justice of Manitoba Richard Chartier;
  • Jean Teillet, senior counsel with Pape Salter Teillet LLP of Vancouver and Toronto;
  • Erin Kleisinger of McDougall Gauley LLP of Regina;
  • Bianca Kratt of  Parlee McLaws LLP of Calgary;
  • Carol Anne Lee, chair of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation; and
  • Georgina (Gina) Nagano, president of the consultancy firm House of Wolf & Associates Inc. in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Applications from jurists for the Supreme Court’s present vacancy were invited by the prime minister on June 20, 2023, and closed on July 21, 2023.

The advisory board’s mandate is to identify and recommend to the prime minister a shortlist of “jurists of the highest calibre, functionally bilingual, and representative of the diversity of our country” who are from western or northern Canada.

The board’s tasks include screening the confidential applications; consulting, including with the chief justice of Canada about the court’s needs; interviewing jurists the board is considering for its shortlist; and language testing of the candidates before the advisory board writes and submit a report to Trudeau — a process which typically takes six weeks. The prime minister is then expected to announce his nominee, who usually comes to Parliament Hill for public questioning by senators and MPs before the appointment is made.

With just eight weeks before the Supreme Court of Canada starts its fall session, time is tight to fill the vacancy which arose unexpectedly when Brown stepped down June 12 in the midst of a Canadian Judicial Council investigation of a complaint alleging misconduct which the former judge denied.

If the government aims to have Brown's successor in place in time for Oct. 11, when the Supreme Court begins hearing appeals again, the federal government will have to shorten the process that culminates in the impending appointment to less than four months, as compared to the five months it took last year getting ready to appoint Justice O’Bonsawin to succeed Moldaver.

The prime minister appoints the eight-member advisory board but a majority of its members (five) were not nominated by the Liberal government :

  • three members, at least two of whom are not advocates or barristers in a province or territory, nominated by the minister of justice;
  • a practising member in good standing of the bar of a province or territory, nominated by the Canadian Bar Association;
  • a practising member in good standing of the bar of a province or territory, nominated by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada;
  • a practising member in good standing of the bar of a province or territory, nominated by the Indigenous Bar Association;
  • a retired superior court judge, nominated by the Canadian Judicial Council; and
  • a legal scholar, nominated by the Council of Canadian Law Deans.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for Law360 Canada,please contact Cristin Schmitz at or call 613-820-2794.