Review of a complaint against the Chief Justice of Canada

    OTTAWA, Sept. 25 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Judicial Council announced
today the results of its review of a complaint against the Right Honourable
Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada. The complaint was made by way of
11 identical form letters from individuals. Two additional complaints were
received by email.
    Although Chief Justice McLachlin is the Chairperson of the Canadian
Judicial Council, she never participates in the review of judicial conduct
matters, since these can sometimes become the subject of judicial review which
could, by way of appeal, come before the Supreme Court of Canada.
    The Council's Complaints Procedures provide that complaints are reviewed
by a member of the Council's Judicial Conduct Committee, in this case Chief
Justice Richard Scott. After considering the facts of the case, Chief Justice
Scott determined that this was not a judicial conduct matter and that the
complaints should accordingly be dismissed.
    Whenever a complaint involves a member of the Canadian Judicial Council,
an outside lawyer is asked to review the matter and provide his or her own
views on the proposed decision by the Judicial Conduct Committee member. In
this case, the matter was referred to Mr Thomas G. Heintzman, O.C., Q.C., of
the law firm McCarthy Tétrault. After his own review of the complaints,
Mr Heintzman agreed that they should be dismissed for the reasons given by
Chief Justice Scott. These are outlined in a letter sent to all the
    Given the public interest in this matter, and the fact that the complaint
itself was made public, the letter to the complainants
(, closing the file in this case, is
made available on the Council's website.

    The Canadian Judicial Council is composed of the chief justices and
associate chief justices of Canada's superior courts. Information about the
Council can be found on the Council's website:

    Complaints and Inquiries process:

    When someone believes that a judge's personal conduct (on or off the
bench) is in question, a complaint may be made to the Canadian Judicial
Council. The Council examines only issues of conduct and does not review a
judge's decision in law.
    The complaints process is simple: the complaint must be in writing, and
it must concern the conduct of a federally appointed judge. No special forms
are necessary. No legal counsel is required. No fees are charged. To the
extent possible, the Council reviews anonymous complaints in the same way as
complaints that are signed.
    When a complaint is made, the question before the Council is ultimately
whether or not a judge's conduct prevents that judge from discharging their
duties as a judge. In such a case, the Council must decide whether or not to
recommend that a judge be removed from office.
    A complaint is first reviewed by a member of the Judicial Conduct
Committee. A complaint can be dismissed when it is clearly frivolous or does
not fall within the mandate of the Council. In roughly half of cases, the
complaint is studied in more detail and the judge in question, as well as
judge's chief justice, are sent a copy of the complaint and asked for their
comments. The complaint is often resolved at this stage, with an appropriate
letter of explanation to the complainant.
    If the complaint cannot be resolved at that stage, the file can be
referred to a Panel of up to five judges for further review. When a Panel
concludes that the complaint has merit but is not serious enough to move to
the next stage (a formal hearing by an Inquiry Committee) then the Panel may
close the file with an expression of concern, or may recommend counselling or
other remedial measures.
    When the complaint may be serious enough to warrant the judge's removal,
the Panel can recommend that the Council establish an Inquiry Committee. After
completing its investigation, an Inquiry Committee reports its findings to the
Canadian Judicial Council. The Council then decides whether or not to
recommend to the Minister of Justice of Canada that the judge be removed from
office. In accordance with the provision of Canada's Constitution, a judge may
be removed from office only after a joint resolution by Parliament.

For further information:

For further information: Norman Sabourin, Executive Director and Senior
General Counsel, (613) 288-1566 ext. 301

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