Address at International Justice Conference: Judicial independence, ensuring the litigants rights and respecting the rules of justice (Marrakech, Morocco April 2, 2018)

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould,

Queen’s Privy Council for Canada,

Queen’s Counsel,

Member of The House of Commons of Canada

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada


Minister Aujjar, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.


Gilakas’la. Bonjour. Good afternoon. Salaam alaikoum.


I’d like to thank Morocco for hosting this inaugural Marrakech International Justice Conference. I appreciate the opportunity to address you and to highlight Canada’s approach to judicial independence, diversity on the bench, and how to encourage adherence to the rule of law. I also look forward to continuing to hear from my distinguished ministerial counterparts, and from other experts, in order to benefit from your best practices and approaches.

Canada is a nation that endeavors to play an active role in maintaining and strengthening a strong, safe and vibrant global community. We believe in working together with our international partners to promote fair, accessible and just legal systems.

All of us need to work together, which is not always easy to do given our different priorities. But it is certainly rewarding and worthwhile, and Canada is here to contribute and play a meaningful role in these discussions.

I’d like to focus my remarks today on three overarching themes: judicial independence, judicial diversity and the importance of adhering to the rule of law. Preserving the independence and efficacy of the judiciary is critical for the protection of individual rights and liberties.


Judicial Independence

Judicial independence is an evolving concept. Institutions must endeavour to keep pace with the continuous need for reforms and modernization.

In Canada, judicial independence is woven into many of our constitutional provisions, such as those dealing with the appointment, tenure and payment of judges, and the guarantee of independent courts and tribunals.

From early in Canada’s history, courts have recognized the centrality of judicial independence in our constitutional system, and have continued to refine our understanding of what this means in practice.

There is no handbook that lays out exactly what judicial independence will look like within various countries. While its core elements are well-understood and universally shared, in practice it can differ among varying nations and legal traditions.

Above all, judicial independence is critical for fostering public confidence in the administration of justice. Our citizens must trust that the judiciary will treat them fairly and impartially, according to the law.

As the federal Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada, I am sometimes asked if my dual role contributes to any conflicts in Canada’s pursuit of judicial independence. I am pleased to say that, in the Canadian context, it works well in practice.

I personally find little in the way of conflict between my policy role and supervisory responsibilities as Minister, and my operational and advisory responsibilities as Attorney General. I believe that the cross-pollination that this system leads to improves my own ability, as well as my Department’s and the Government’s ability, to effectively carry out each function.

And in this capacity, I am committed to making judicial institutions stronger for the benefit of all Canadians. To this end, when our Government assumed office in the fall of 2015, we made significant changes to improve the efficacy and integrity of our independent judicial system, while building upon its strengths.

I introduced significant changes to the judicial appointment process, with the goal of further strengthening its independence, openness, and transparency. These reforms have also resulted in greater diversity on the bench.

In Canada, jurists interested in being appointed to the federal judiciary must submit a detailed application laying out their contributions to the administration of justice over the course of their careers. Each candidate is first evaluated by one of our “Judicial Advisory Committees” – independent, volunteer committees composed of judges, lawyers, and community members.

We also made transformative changes to the appointment process for justices of the Supreme Court of Canada. Under the new process, an independent and non-partisan Advisory Board identifies suitable candidates who are jurists of the highest caliber, functionally bilingual, and representative of Canada’s rich diversity.

Judicial Diversity

At the heart of our efforts to further strengthen Canada’s judicial system lies a commitment to greater diversity. As I have touched on, we have made inroads to achieving this goal with the reforms we have made to our judicial appointment process.

Canada is a nation that prides itself on its diversity. One-fifth of Canadians were born outside the country. As our Prime Minister likes to say, “diversity is Canada’s strength.. .it’s the air we breathe. Our nation has learned to be strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them.”

When I refer to judicial diversity, I’m speaking about both gender diversity, which ensures that more women are appointed to the bench, and individual diversity, which aims to capture the diversity that resides within our various communities. We have also put greater emphasis on appointing bilingual judges, who can best provide equal access to the courts in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French.

Our commitment to judicial diversity influences every judicial appointment we make and encourages us to appoint the best and most qualified candidate for a position, while considering their ability to reflect a segment of our diverse society.

We believe that promoting and maintaining a diverse judicial bench allows those who come before the justice system to see themselves represented in the system.

The diversity of individuals appointed to the judiciary, in both professional and life experience, along with their ties to the community where they work, are critical to ensuring judicial benches reflect, and receive the respect of the communities they serve. And though such a process of promoting judicial diversity takes time, I am proud to say that 2017 marked a record high for judicial appointments for any Minister of Justice in our nation’s history.

Of the more than 115 appointments and elevations I have made under the reformed process, more than half are women. In addition, four are Indigenous and 20 have self-identified as a member of a visible minority population; of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community; or as a person with a disability. I am immensely proud of the candidates that I have appointed, who all represent the different faces and experiences of Canada.

Rule of Law

I have discussed the vital roles that judicial independence and diversity play in ensuring the success and efficacy of a nation’s judicial system. These two themes are also important because they encourage both governments and citizens to adhere to the rule of law.

The term ‘rule of law’ is one that may mean many different things to many different people. For us, in Canada, the rule of law is the first principle of the Canadian constitutional framework, governing the provisions of the constitutional text and upholding the relationship between written law and the political conventions of the Constitution.

In particular, the fundamental principle of the rule of law is reflected in the legal protections outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of its implementation.

In both my roles as Minister of Justice and the Attorney General, I am responsible for adherence to the rule of law by ensuring that Canada’s legislation meets the highest standards of equity and fairness, while also respecting the Constitution and the independence of the courts and the judicial process.

Under the Canadian Constitution, there is a separation of powers between the judiciary, executive and legislative branches of the Government. For us, this is an important way of ensuring adherence to the rule of law.

Just as judges must be impartial and independent, so too must public prosecutors, who determine whether and how to pursue criminal charges. Indeed, in 2006, Canada made reforms to our federal prosecution service to reinforce its independence. The Public Prosecution Service was made independent of the Department of Justice, and a requirement was introduced that any instructions from the Attorney General to the Director of Public Prosecutions must be published in writing.

Reforms such as these help ensure that Canada’s legal and judicial institutions remain ethical, responsive, and independent. As I have mentioned, as Canadians, we are proud of our institutions but we recognize that there is always room for improvement.

In closing, I’d like to emphasize how important it is for all of us to continue this dialogue among international partners. Our own respective justice systems will be strengthened by engaging with each other, and sharing our unique perspectives and experiences.

[A worthwhile example of what this partnership means in practice can be captured by the work being carried out between the Honourable Mary T. Moreau, an experienced Canadian judge, and her Moroccan counterparts.

Just last week, Chief Justice Moreau was in Rabat, where she conducted interviews and engaged in discussions about judicial ethics and training with various Moroccan partners, including sitting judges and members of Morocco’s Supreme Judicial Council.

It is these types of partnerships that I’m referring to when I say we must continue working together to promote further learning and connection within the international justice community.]

By building on our own processes and principles as they relate to judicial independence, diversity, and the rule of law, we are all contributing to a shared commitment to improving access to justice and maintaining order within our own borders and beyond.


Gilakas’la. Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup. Shoukran.

Address at International Justice Conference: Judicial independence, ensuring the litigants rights and respecting the rules of justice (Marrakech, Morocco April 2, 2018) was last modified: ianuarie 7th, 2019 by Costache Adrian