The jury is out. Now that the Bastarache Commission’s 290-page report on Quebec’s judicial nomination system has been published (including a 34-page English summary), political spinning is in full grind. The report exonerates Quebec Premier Jean Charest, dismisses allegations made by former justice minister Marc Bellemare that the judicial appointment process in Quebec was tainted six years ago, and makes 46 recommendations to address weaknesses in the Quebec judicial selection and appointment process.
Bellemare dismissed the report, Quebec’s opposition parties claim the report was a farce, and editorials weighed in with their observations.
Bellemare is sticking to his story. The former minister believes that the public at large will believe his version of events, regardless of the findings of the report. He may have a point. A poll taken by CROP, taken on the Internet, says that 66 per cent still believe Bellemare’s allegations, that is, that he faced undue pressure from Quebec Liberal Party fundraisers (with the consent of Premier Charest) to nominate two judges of the Court of Quebec and promote a third during his tenure as justice minister from April 2003 until April 2004.
Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois accused the Bastarache commission of ignoring reality while the right-wing party ADQ deplored the gapping omissions.
In its editorial the Montreal Gazette said that the commission report’s recommendations for improving the appointment process and “enhancing the composition of the provincial judiciary are pertinent.”
The well-respected French-language Montreal newspaper La Presse has several opinion pieces on the Bastarache, all worth reading, beginning with legal columnist Yves Boisvert who notes that the “prudent” report has made worthwhile recommendations to improve the judicial nomination process.
Alain Dubuc says that the provincial government has no choice but to act quickly to implement the changes recommended by the former Supreme Court justice while political columnist Vincent Marisal states that lost Premier Charest lost his bet – the findings of the Bastarache report will do nothing to alleviate the pressure on the highly unpopular Premier to hold an inquiry into the construction industry. Rumours of corruption and illicit political ties with the governing party have been growing over the past year.
The Globe and Mail editorial holds that Premier Charest was “unjustly made to wear the failings of the judicial appointments system,” while the influential French-language paper Le Devoir does not seem to hold much hope that things will change.
Some pertinent background material I wrote for The Lawyers Weekly — focusing on inquiries, immunity within the context of inquiries and recommendations to improve the judicial nomination system made by a panel of experts commissioned by the Bastarache inquiry, recommendations that the Bastarache paid heed to.
A lot of links, a lot of reading, but all worthwhile as it provides a unique glimpse on how the judicial nomination system has surprisingly captured the attention of Quebecers.