CONDUCT OF JUDGES
We expect the highest standards of conduct from our judges. If a judge’s conduct does not meet our expected high standards and is not suitable to be a member of the judiciary, the Canadian Judicial Council has a process for reviewing the alleged inappropriate conduct and, if necessary, for removing the judge from office.
What is the Council’s role in reviewing judicial conduct?
Under the Judges Act, the Canadian Judicial Council has the authority to investigate complaints about federally appointed judges in Canada. These are judges from federal courts and higher levels of provincial courts.
By directing complaints to the Canadian Judicial Council, Parliament acknowledges that the public must have a way to voice its concerns about judges. At the same time, the system must allow judges to respond to allegations of misconduct in a fair way. The entire process must be efficient, fair, and objective.
The procedure for making a complaint about a judge’s conduct is described fully in the complaints section of this website. Any member of the public, the Minister of Justice, or provincial Attorneys General, can make a complaint about a federally appointed judge to the Council. Provided the complaint is about a judge’s conduct (not a judge’s decision in a court case), is in writing, and is about a specific federally appointed judge, the Council will take the complaint and review the matter.
The Council may handle the complaint in a variety of ways, from asking the judge to respond to the complaint, to holding a full inquiry into the matter. In very serious cases, the Council can recommend to Parliament that a judge be removed from office.
The Council cannot investigate general complaints about the justice system, the courts, or the judiciary as a whole. It cannot change judicial decisions in court cases, compensate individuals, grant appeals, or address demands for a new trial.
The Canadian Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction over the lower levels of provincial courts, such as those that hear small claims disputes, and some family and criminal matters. If a member of the public wants to make a complaint about a judge in one of those courts, the complaint must be directed to the judicial council in that judge’s province or territory.