Canadian Judicial Council announces it will proceed with a public inquiry in the case of Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas
Ottawa, 6 July 2011 - The Canadian Judicial Council announced today that there will be a public inquiry about Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas of the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba. After conducting a detailed review of a number of allegations about Associate Chief Justice Douglas, a Review Panel of five judges has concluded that the matter may be serious enough to warrant the judge's removal from office. The Panel has therefore decided that an inquiry committee should investigate the matter.
In accordance with Council's Inquiries and Investigations By-laws, the Inquiry Committee will be comprised of an uneven number of members. The majority will be Council members. The Minister of Justice is invited to appoint one or more members, who must be lawyers with at least 10 years of experience.
An independent lawyer will be selected to present all relevant evidence in a full and fair manner. Once constituted, the Inquiry Committee will decide on the scope and depth of its work.
Additional details about the Inquiry Committee will be communicated over the coming weeks.
This is the first Inquiry Committee taking place since changes were made to Council's By-laws and procedures in October 2010. These changes were made to streamline some of the key steps for reviewing complaints against federally appointed judges.
In working to preserve the confidence of Canadians, Council is committed to administering an efficient complaint process which protects the public interest and ensures fairness for the judge. Information on the role and mandate of Council can be found on the Council's website at www.cjc-ccm.gc.ca.
Norman Sabourin, Executive Director and Senior General Counsel
Background Information - Complaints and Inquiries
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. When a complaint is determined to have some merit, the question before the Council is ultimately whether or not that conduct prevents that judge from continuing to discharge his or her duties. The reasons for removal are set out in the Judges Act and address cases where a judge has become incapacitated or disabled from performing their duties by reason of age or infirmity, misconduct, a failure to execute the duties of the position, or being in a position incompatible with the functions of a judge.
All complaints received by the Canadian Judicial Council are reviewed in accordance with Council's Complaints Procedures. A complaint is first reviewed by a member of the Judicial Conduct Committee. The judge in question, as well as the judge's chief justice, may be asked to comment on the allegations. If the complaint cannot be resolved at that stage, the file can be referred to a Panel of three or five judge for further review. After careful consideration, the Panel may close the file with an expression of concern if warranted or may recommend that the judge pursue counselling or other remedial measures.
A Panel can also conclude that the complaint may be serious enough to warrant a judge's removal from office. In that case, the matter is sent to an Inquiry Committee to publicly investigate the matter.
An Inquiry Committee consists of an uneven number of members, the majority of which are Council members, along with other individuals, appointed by the Minister of Justice who are lawyers with a minimum of ten years experience. An "Independent Counsel" is appointed to present the facts to the Committee which exercises the same authority and powers as a superior court. It is expected that any hearing of the Inquiry Committee would be conducted in public, unless the Inquiry Committee determines that the public interest requires that all or part of a hearing be conducted in private.
After completing its investigation, the Inquiry Committee will report its findings to Council. While Council accords considerable deference to the Inquiry Committee, it will then report its own recommendations to the Minister of Justice.
In accordance with the provisions of Canada's Constitution, a judge may only be removed from office after a joint address by Parliament.
Since 1971, there have been eight Inquiry Committees the results of which are detailed on the Council's website at www.cjc-ccm.gc.ca.