REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the honour to table its
Your committee, to which was referred the subject-matter of those elements contained in Division 5 of Part 6 of Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, has, in obedience to its order of reference of Wednesday, April 9, 2014, examined the said subject-matter and now reports as follows:
Under the terms of sections 96 and 100 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government appoints and pays the salaries and pensions of Superior Court-level judges in the provinces and territories. The number of these positions that are funded by the federal government is set out by jurisdiction in sections 12 to 22 of the Judges Act.
In the February 2014 budget, the federal government allocated $4.4 million over two years to fund six additional federally appointed judges, four in Quebec and two in Alberta. The budget states that this is in recognition of increases in the number of complicated, high-profile criminal and civil cases that have caused significant delays in conducting hearings at the Superior Court level in these provinces. The additional positions are intended to reduce these delays and thereby ensure that criminal charges are not being dropped because they cannot be heard in a timely fashion.
Accordingly, Division 5 of Part 6 of Bill C-31 amends the Judges Act to increase the number of judges of the Superior Court of Quebec and the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.
The committee heard from Justice Canada officials, who outlined the amendments proposed by Division 5 of Part 6 of Bill C-31, and explained the reasons for them. The committee also heard from the Canadian Bar Association, which supports the amendments. The committee also invited the Attorney General of Quebec, the Attorney General of Alberta, the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs and the Barreau du Quebec to appear. However, they did not appear during the committee’s public hearings.
Some committee members raised questions about the consistency of the criteria applied by Justice Canada to requests made by the provinces for additional judges.
In conclusion, the committee therefore supports the elements of Division 5 of Part 6 of Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures.