Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may be permitted to reply briefly to the observations just made by the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker). With his generalizations no member in the House of Commons I think will be disposed to disagree. With, in particular, his emphasis Upon the fact that the chief consideration in the appointment of members to the judiciary should be ability, capacity and integrity no one will disagree; and I can say with a perfectly clear conscience that in so far as any appointments I as minister have made, the proper emphasis has been placed upon those three qualities.
But if those qualities were possessed in an eminent degree by a man who at the same time happened to be a member of the Liberal party, I think the hon. member would be the last to argue that membership in that party should disentitle him to consideration for appointment to the bench.
Yes, and neither should dis-entitlement be the other way. So far as any appointments I have made are concerned, I think it would be much more fitting on my part to let them speak for themselves rather than for me to boast about them, or defend them, because I do not think they require defence.
The hon. member has said that there are only two cases which come to his mind in which members of his party have been appointed to the bench. I suggest that he think a little more deeply on the subject, and if he has done so he does not come to a different conclusion, I should be glad to go over the list with him and point out some others.
My usual experience outside the house is rather the converse of what has been taking place in the last fifteen minutes; there has been criticism for my having been a little too broadminded on the subject the hon. member has been discussing.
The hon. member for Lake Centre has referred to the fact that there have been delays in the rendering of judgments, but he has refrained from identifying the provinces in which the delays have occurred.
I can understand the reason for his reticence in that regard in any public statement. However, I hope those reasons will not deter him from disclosing that information to me in my office.
No. I think the hon. member is wrong. I do not know what case he has in mind, but I should be very glad to discuss the matter.
At the present time we have only one example of a delayed judgment of the kind indicated. It was brought to my attention by a member of the bar of the province in question, and is now under consideration.
As the hon. member knows, the establishment of the courts to which he has had reference is the responsibility of the provincial legislatures, and the administration of justice in those courts is the responsibility of provincial attorneys general. It is true that the judges are appointed by the federal government. The impression seems to prevail -and while I listened to the hon. member I was wondering whether he shared it
that because the appointment is made by the federal government, the federal government has some executive power of discipline over the judiciary.
The hon. member knows quite well that one of the cardinal features of our system of government is that the judiciary should be independent of the executive. I believe that upon reflection he will be inclined to agree with me that in those cases in which there have been delays in the rendering of judgments the proper course in the first instance would be for the officer in charge of the administration of justice in a province, namely, the provincial attorney general, as tactfully and firmly as possible, to bring the matter to the attention of the offending judge. Then, if that did not produce results he might send a memorandum in the matter to the Minister of Justice, to the end that if the delays were sufficiently serious, a court of inquiry could be set up to ascertain the reasons for delay. I think the hon. member will agree with that course of procedure. Therefore in those cases, such as the most recent one to which I have referred, where complaints are made direct to the Minister of Justice-and not made by the attorney general of a province-one must prosecute the inquiry, and take the matter up with the provincial attorney general concerned, with a certain amount of diplomacy, lest it
appear that we are trenching upon what in the first instance at any rate is his proper field of responsibility.
There was one aspect of the hon. member's argument that made quite an impression upon me, and that was when he said that we must follow a certain course of conduct in the appointment of judges, in order to maintain the present high standard of ability of the bench. I am in complete agreement with him that in Canada by and large there is a very high standard of ability and integrity on the part of our judges, both provincial and federal. If the argument advanced by my hon. friend is to be taken seriously, then that great ability and integrity of the bench upon which he bases his argument is the product of the system which he is criticizing, the system, so far as I am concerned, of selecting appointees to the bench on the basis of ability, integrity and capacity, and then, and only then, having regard, if any regard at all is had, to their political affiliation. I do not think a better justification or vindication of the manner in which judicial appointments are made could be provided by anyone than is contained in the statement just made by my hon. friend.
intended to speak on this matter, but I left the chamber for a few minutes this morning and as I came back I heard praise of our judiciary from both sides of the house. It is difficult for a practising lawyer not to do this. In other words, he has not a chance. Of course they will be praised. I want to compliment the minister upon the last appointment he made in Alberta. The fact that the appointee happened to be the past president of the Liberal association for a long time is neither here nor there. The most important thing is that he is an excellent lawyer and is doing very well. I think that is largely due to the fact that I brought him up as a law student and he was my next senior partner when the appointment was made.
But let us not forget a few obvious facts. One is that all the judges in Alberta, both in the superior court and district court, are Liberals. It is not an accident. Do not let us blind ourselves by blandishments as to their great achievements. I am prepared to say all that about the Alberta judges because I am going to appear before them. There may be some men on the bench who are not worth a nickel, but I am ready to stand up and praise them because I am not going to
cut my throat when I may be practising before them. I have forgotten the total number of judges, but, as I say, they are all Liberals. Having regard to what the Minister of Justice has said, they must have taken the cream of the crop, and it is just an accident that they all happened to be of a certain political persuasion. I do not know that I object very strenuously to that, if in the three qualities the minister mentions they stand superior or at least equal to their fellows.
There is another thing upon which I should like to compliment the minister, and in saying what I intend to say I hope I am within the boundaries of this bill. The two recent appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada are beyond any criticism. Those two judges represent the cream of our profession; the appointments are most excellent. I know nothing whatever of their politics.
There is another amendment which has been long overdue, and which is provided in section 3. On the old basis of allowances of $6 and $10 per day our judges lost money. I know in my province they went around doing the country's business and maintaining as best they could the high standards of justice. I have no doubt that they do their best, but there are capabilities and capabilities. That is all I have to say.
I understand that yesterday the hon. member for St. John's West made some remarks about this bill, and from my knowledge of the facts I feel they were fully justified. Having read the Hansard report of of what was said yesterday, there is one question that I should like to ask. Would it be possible to see the letter written to Mr. Varcoe by the minister of justice of Newfoundland?
The bill provides for five district court judges, and perhaps the minister can explain why the number has been reduced from seven, which was originally provided for in the negotiations. I should like to know also where these courts are to be set up. Will there be two district courts in St. John's? Has the minister any idea when the appointments are likely to be made?
I presume that the usual practice will be followed and that no question of party politics will enter into the appointments; that only qualified members of the bar will be selected for these positions. I agree thoroughly with the remarks of the hon. member for St. John's West with respect to the magistrate now in St. John's. As a lawyer I have a number of friends among those who are likely to be appointed, and I have no hesitation in saying that they are very competent to fill the positions.
The reason for the difference between the number "seven", which was mentioned in the provincial legislation setting up the district courts in Newfoundland, and the number "five" which we have in the bill, is explained as follows. After the provincial bill had been passed a conference took place between the attorney general of Newfoundland and our department. We had officers of the department go to Newfoundland to examine the set-up, and the territory to be covered. We finally came to the conclusion that at the present time, all things considered, including the extent to which the appointment of seven judges might tend to denude the bar, five was the proper figure that should be carried into the bill.
As to the other matter to which my hon. friend refers, my deputy is in London appearing in a case before the privy council. While I have access to his files I would prefer not to use them until he returns and I can discuss the matter with him. I have not handled the matter myself, because it was a continuance of something that had been under way before I came to the department.
No. I think my hon. friend will find that that is covered in the provincial legislation. I could not indicate the extent to which that might have to be modified in practice by one judge covering perhaps more than one district by travelling to various points.
As my hon. friend knows-and I am not necessarily speaking about the Newfoundland legislation, but about provincial legislation generally setting up courts of this kind-the total area of a province is divided geographically into certain judicial divisions and a court is created for each one. If the hon. member will examine the Newfoundland legislation I am sure he will see what these divisions are, or it may be that there is a clause in the Newfoundland bill empowering the lieutenant governor in council to determine the divisions after examining the matter. The question with which we are concerned is the appointment of judges to serve these divisions. That service may be provided by having a resident judge in each division, or by having certain outlying divisions covered by a judge who goes on circuit.