Canadian Judicial Council Supports Introduction of Bill C-51

OTTAWA, May 20, 2005 – The Government’s process to set judicial compensation took a step forward today with the introduction of Bill C-51 in the House of Commons.  If approved by Parliament, the Bill will amend the Judges Act to set the salaries and benefits of superior court judges through to 2008.

The Chief Justice of Canada and Chairperson of the Canadian Judicial Council, Beverley McLachlin, applauded the introduction of the Bill. “The Bill is the culmination of a process designed to preserve judicial independence, a principle explicitly protected under and required by the Canadian constitution.  Judicial independence is not the private right of judges but is the very foundation of judicial impartiality necessary in a free and democratic society.  An independent judiciary is the constitutional right of all Canadians,” said Chief Justice McLachlin.

As part of the process to set judicial salaries and benefits, a Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission must convene every four years and issue a report to the Government with recommendations within nine months of the commencement of its work.  The Government must respond to the report within six months. In making its recommendations, the Commission is directed by statute to consider a number of factors including the prevailing economic conditions in Canada, the cost of living and the overall economic and financial position of the government, the role of financial security of the judiciary in ensuring judicial independence and the need to attract outstanding candidates to the judiciary.    The Commission acts independently and objectively in carrying out its mandate.

The three members of the current Commission, Chairman Roderick McLennan, Q.C., and Commissioners Greta Chambers, C.C., O.Q., and Earl Cherniak, Q.C., submitted their report to the Government on May 31, 2004.  The Government responded on November 30, 2004 and accepted all of the recommendations of the Commission, with one exception (which did not deal with salaries).  In particular, the Government accepted the recommendation that judges receive a 10.8% salary increase over four years, effective April 1, 2004, inclusive of statutory indexing.  This represents an increase of approximately 2.7% per year, above annual indexing, over the relevant four year period (April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2008). In its response, the Government stated that the thorough and thoughtful explanations provided in the report reflected the seriousness with which the Commission approached its mandate and the care it took in its deliberations and recommendations. 

The Canadian constitution requires that salaries and allowances of the federally appointed judiciary be established by Parliament.  Parliament will now consider the Bill, which reflects the recommendations of the Commission which were accepted by the Government.  “By putting forward this Bill, the Government is taking the next step in a process designed to depoliticize the issue of judicial compensation, ensuring that the courts are both free and appear to be free from political interference through economic manipulation by the other branches of the government,” said Chief Justice McLachlin.  “The next stage, approval by Parliament, is essential to ensure the integrity of this process,” she said.

A copy of the Commission’s report and the Government’s response can be found at http://www.quadcom.gc.ca

The Canadian Judicial Council is composed of the chief justices and associate chief justices of Canada’s superior courts.  The Council’s web site address is: http://www.cjc-ccm.gc.ca

Contact: Norman Sabourin, Executive Director and General Counsel, 613-288-1566, extension 301.