Indigenous Bar Association Urges Prime Minister Harper to Remove Barriers to Judicial Appointments for Indigenous Judges

Indigenous Bar Association Urges Prime Minister Harper to Remove Barriers to Judicial Appointments for Indigenous Judges

OTTAWA, May 7, 2012 /CNW/ – The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA) today called upon Prime Minister to make systemic changes in the federal judicial appointment process and ensure Indigenous legal traditions are properly reflected in the appointment of federal judges.  The IBA and the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) have for many years urged governments to ensure that Indigenous peoples are properly represented in judicial appointments, both federal and provincial.  In April 2004, the IBA released a paper, calling for the appointment of an Indigenous Judge to the Supreme Court of Canada.  This position was also adopted by the CBA in a Resolution in August 2005.  The Canadian Association of Law Professors (CALT) adopted a similar position in their Report dated June 2005, which also called for the depoliticization of the judicial appointment process.

Recent reports indicate a lack of diversity in judicial appointments – of the last 100 appointments made by PM Harper, 98 were white, according to the Globe and Mail.  Reports continue to express concern over political affiliation being a determining factor in the appointment process.  The Harper Conservatives were highly critical of the Liberals and spent years preaching that the value of merit as the cornerstone of the judicial appointments process in Canada.  Koren Lightning-Earle, President of the IBA, said:  “The Conservatives seems to equate merit to colour and political ideology.  It means that in spite of a majority of graduates to the Bar across Canada being women, there’s no “merit” in their contribution because they had the audacity to be born female.  It means that the Conservatives see no ‘merit’ in the contributions that Aboriginal lawyers and lawyers from racial minority communities make to the Canadian justice system.”

The IBA has long been on record supporting the fundamental value of merit in the judicial appointments process, but has insisted that merit reflect Indigenous legal traditions, just as Quebec Civil law is reflected in Supreme Court appointments.  The IBA believes merit is about the rule of law and its application to Canadian society.  The IBA believes merit is about outstanding contributions to law over the career of a lawyer or legal scholar.  The IBA believes merit is about being the best among us as Canadians, lawyers and legal scholars – not whether we fit into a narrow Conservative mould under the guise of “merit” which has been used to keep all but white males off of the Bench.

Frankly, the IBA has always supported the principle of merit as key to judicial appointments because so many Aboriginal lawyers and academics have qualified themselves for appointments by getting the same law degree from the same law schools as those currently being appointed under the Conservative’s rule. Aboriginal lawyers and academics have made important contributions to Canada’s jurisprudence and have earned all of the cornerstone qualities to be considered for meritorious appointments to the Bench.  The only thing we cannot change is who we are, which under the Conservative government’s appointment’s record seems to disqualify us.  It’s time to change the Conservative’s meaning of “merit”.

For further information:contact Koren Lightning-Earle , President of the Indigenous Bar Association at: or at 780.721.2345 or visit our website at

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