Ottawa, November 25 2010

Protocol on the Appointment of Judges to Commissions of Inquiry

What are commissions of inquiry?

A commission of inquiry is created when government believes there is a need to determine the facts surrounding events that have generated public concern.

The subject of the inquiry is determined by government and the commission reports to the government its findings and any recommendations. 

While meeting the information needs of government, the public expects commissions of inquiry to be independent and efficiently run. Judges are often appointed by government to manage inquiries given the guarantee of independence associated with their position.

Preserving public confidence

The important information gleaned from public inquiries helps government develop and implement policy, educate the public and legislative branches, investigate administrative processes and listen to public grievances on a range of issues. Primary among these functions is providing government with advice in which the public can have confidence. 

Key to preserving public confidence in the process and outcomes of a public inquiry is the government’s choice of an experienced, skilled and credible person to lead it. Judges are often considered as the preferred choice given that they are experts in managing competing information gathering processes involving multiple parties and interests.

Of added benefit is the individual and institutional independence enjoyed by judges which contributes to the public’s perception of an impartial and fair process. 

The Protocol

From the perspective of the judiciary, the decision to participate on a commission of inquiry is informed, to a large extent, by the public’s perception of their independence as a judge. 

The Protocol on Appointment of Judges to Commissions of Inquiry builds on judicial experience and past inquiries across Canada and attempts to outline the considerations, roles and responsibilities associated with inquiries.

Ongoing dialogue between the judiciary and the government

As Commissions of Inquiry involve judges providing advice to government, ongoing dialogue is required. It is hoped that this Protocol will aid in this regard. Canadians can have confidence in the independence of Commissions of Inquiry and the judges who lead them.