Home Legal News Canadian judicial complaints process receives major overhaul

Canadian judicial complaints process receives major overhaul

by HR Law Canada

Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, confirmed that the Judges Act has been amended to modernize and improve the judicial complaints process. These changes, receiving Royal Assent, are now in effect, marking a substantial reform to a process established half a century ago.

The revised system stipulates mandatory sanctions, including counselling, continuing education, and reprimands, for judges when a complaint of misconduct is substantiated but not severe enough to necessitate removal from their post.

In a move to ensure a more efficient and economical resolution of grave judicial complaints that could lead to removal from the bench, the new amendments promise to replace what was a previously prolonged and costly system.

The Canadian Judicial Council (CJC), which oversees the complaints process, will now be obligated to provide an annual public report detailing the number and nature of complaints received and their respective outcomes.

Lametti stated, “Accountability is the bedrock of our justice system – and that includes accountability from our judges. These reforms ensure that our judicial system remains one Canadians can trust.”

Founded in 1971, the CJC consists of Canada’s federally appointed chief and associate chief justices. They independently investigate complaints regarding misconduct by federally appointed judges.

The CJC’s jurisdiction covers federally-appointed judges, including those of the Supreme Court of Canada, federal courts, provincial and territorial superior trial courts, and the provincial and territorial courts of appeal. It also pertains to the associate judges of the Federal Court and Tax Court of Canada. However, the provinces and territories handle misconduct reviews of the judges at the lowest level of the provincial/territorial trial court, who receive provincial appointments.

Since its establishment, the CJC has fully investigated ten serious complaints that could lead to removal from the bench. Of these, five led to recommendations for removal.

The complaints process under the CJC will involve an initial screening and review. Subsequently, a three-member review panel might either delve deeper into a misconduct complaint or, if serious enough, refer it to a separate five-member hearing panel. In severe cases, this five-person hearing panel can recommend removal from the bench to the Minister of Justice, post a public hearing.

The revised system also presents a streamlined appeal process for judges at risk of removal, ultimately providing an opportunity to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The updated structure also introduces a novel funding mechanism for certain components of the complaints process, alongside new financial oversight mechanisms to ensure greater cost accountability.

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