National News

How hard did PMO push Supreme Court pick?

By The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Canada's justice minister says he didn't personally recommend to Marc Nadon that he resign from the Federal Court of Appeal and rejoin the Quebec bar in order to be eligible to join the Supreme Court.

But Peter MacKay is not refuting a Global News report that says the Prime Minister's Office did just that, a recommendation Nadon reportedly refused.

"I can tell you that's not something that I personally encouraged him to do," MacKay told a Commons committee Thursday.

Liberal MP Sean Casey asked MacKay when he first became aware that Nadon's resignation was suggested as a way to facilitate his nomination.

MacKay pointedly sidestepped the question.

"What I can tell you is that when I became minister of justice back this past summer, this process — of which you were a part — was already well underway," he said.

Not being a current member of the Quebec bar turned out to be the main reason Nadon was deemed ineligible for one of three positions on the high court that are reserved for jurists from the province.

In a 6-1 decision rendered in March, the Supreme Court ruled Nadon ineligible to join the nine-judge panel.

The government, clearly anticipating that Nadon's nomination would be controversial, also commissioned legal opinions from two former Supreme Court justices and a constitutional scholar.

Former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie noted in his opinion that while Nadon could theoretically meet legal requirements by rejoining the bar, such a move would not be "compatible with the dignity of the office."

Nadon's failed appointment to the top bench remains mired in controversy.

Last week, the Conservatives publicly questioned the actions of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, suggesting she inappropriately tried to initiate a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss potential legal problems with appointing Nadon.

The statement from the Prime Minister's Office exposed an unusual dispute between two of Canada's three branches of government.

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