The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Arif Virani, announced a series of judicial appointments, further reinforcing the federal government’s commitment to transparency, diversity, and merit in the selection process, it said in a press release.
The new appointees are set to fill vacancies in the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, across different cities, replacing judges who have either moved up the ranks or shifted to less active roles.
Jason P. Howie, a partner at Howie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors in Windsor, will assume a position in Sarnia. He fills the void left by Justice J.C. George, who was elevated to the Court of Appeal last December. Howie’s legal career has been punctuated by a focus on family law, and he has served in various professional organizations, including a stint as president of the Essex County Family Law Lawyers Association.
Taking up a role in Hamilton is Sandra Antoniani, a sole practitioner who specializes in criminal law. She replaces Justice T. Skarica, who chose to become a supernumerary judge effective February 22, 2023. Antoniani, a first-generation Canadian of Italian descent, has been a criminal defence lawyer for nearly a decade before serving as a federal prosecutor.
Windsor-based Jennifer E. Bezaire, managing partner at Greg Monforton & Partners Injury Lawyers, has been appointed to a judicial role in her home city. She steps in for Justice T.J. Carey, another who elected supernumerary status as of February 28, 2023. Notably, Bezaire has received numerous academic awards and has been an active volunteer in various legal associations.
Finally, Alexandre Kaufman, an Associate Judge in Ottawa, has been promoted within the city’s Superior Court of Justice. He replaces Justice R.L. Maranger, who became a supernumerary judge earlier this year. Kaufman’s background spans multiple languages and legal disciplines, and he has been active in legal education programs.
“I wish Justices Howie, Antoniani, Bezaire, and Kaufman every success as they take on their new roles. I am confident they will serve Ontarians well as members of the Superior Court of Justice,” said the Honourable Arif Virani.
The appointments reflect Canada’s increasingly diverse bench. Since November 2015, the government has appointed over 645 judges, more than half of whom are women. The appointments also include increased representation from racialized, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQI+ communities, and those who self-identify as having a disability.
In addition to these appointments, Budget 2022 has provided for 22 new judicial positions and two associate judges at the Tax Court of Canada to improve access to justice for Canadians. This comes on top of the 13 new positions created in Budget 2021, bringing the total number of newly created superior court positions to 37 since 2017.
The federal judicial appointments are part of a larger initiative to reform the justice system, including mandatory continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law for all provincial superior court candidates.
These appointments are made by the Governor General, acting on advice from the federal Cabinet and recommendations from the Minister of Justice, highlighting the vital role of Judicial Advisory Committees in evaluating candidates for these pivotal positions.