By Department of Justice Canada | Government of Canada
On April 24, 2023, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced the following appointment under the judicial application process established in 2016. This process emphasizes transparency, merit, and the diversity of the Canadian population, and will continue to ensure the appointment of jurists who meet the highest standards of excellence and integrity.
Owen Rees, Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice Canada in Ottawa, is appointed a Judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in Ottawa. Justice Rees replaces Justice J.A. Parfett (Ottawa), who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective January 1, 2023.
“I wish Justice Rees every success as he takes on his new role. I am confident he will serve Ontarians well as a member of the Superior Court of Justice.”
—The Hon. David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Justice Owen Rees was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. He earned a B.A. from McGill University, an LL.B. from Queen’s University, and a B.C.L. from Oxford University. He was admitted to the Ontario bar in 2003.
Justice Rees began his career as a law clerk to Justice Louis LeBel at the Supreme Court of Canada. He practised litigation with Stockwoods LLP in Toronto and with Conway Litigation in Ottawa. From 2012 to 2015, he served as Executive Legal Officer to then Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin. In that role, he was the principal advisor to the Chief Justice and assisted her with the administration of the Supreme Court of Canada, the National Judicial Institute, and the Canadian Judicial Council. He joined the Department of Justice Canada as Senior General Counsel in 2018, and later became Deputy Assistant Deputy Attorney General and Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General, National Litigation Sector.
Justice Rees co-founded and was an executive director of the Supreme Court Advocacy Institute. He has been the secretary to the board of the National Judicial Institute and he sat on Legal Aid Ontario’s Group Applications and Test Cases Committee. Justice Rees taught law as a lecturer at Oxford University and as an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and at Queen’s Law. He is a recipient of the Justice Thomas Cromwell Distinguished Public Service Award from Queen’s Law and the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General.
Justice Rees enjoys family time with his spouse, Jocelyn, and their two wonderful school-aged children.
- At the Superior Court level, more than 605 judges have been appointed since November 2015. These exceptional jurists represent the diversity that strengthens Canada. Of these judges, more than half are women, and appointments reflect an increased representation of visible minorities, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQI+, and those who self-identify as having a disability.
- To support the needs of the courts and improve access to justice for all Canadians, the Government of Canada is committed to increasing the capacity of superior courts. Budget 2022 provides for 22 new judicial positions, along with two associate judges at the Tax Court of Canada. Along with the 13 positions created under Budget 2021, this makes a total of 37 newly created superior court positions. Since Budget 2017, the government has funded 116 new judicial positions.
- Changes to the Questionnaire for Federal Judicial Appointments were announced in September 2022. The questionnaire continues to provide for a robust and thorough assessment of candidates but has been streamlined and updated to incorporate, among other things, more respectful and inclusive language for individuals to self-identify diversity characteristics.
- Federal judicial appointments are made by the Governor General, acting on the advice of the federal Cabinet and recommendations from the Minister of Justice.
- The Judicial Advisory Committees across Canada play a key role in evaluating judicial applications. There are 17 Judicial Advisory Committees, with each province and territory represented.
- Significant reforms to the role and structure of the Judicial Advisory Committees, aimed at enhancing the independence and transparency of the process, were announced on October 20, 2016.
- The Government of Canada is committed to promoting a justice system in which sexual assault matters are decided fairly, without the influence of myths and stereotypes, and in which survivors are treated with dignity and compassion. Changes to the Judges Act and Criminal Code that came into force on May 6, 2021, mean that in order to be eligible for appointment to a provincial superior court, candidates must agree to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context, which includes systemic racism and systemic discrimination. The new legislation enhances the transparency of decisions by amending the Criminal Code to require that judges provide written reasons, or enter them into the record, when deciding sexual assault matters.