B.C. Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson is seen in an undated handout photo. (William Huang/BC Supreme Court via The Canadian Press)

B.C. Supreme Court chief justice calls on feds to appoint more judges

Christopher Hinkson points to 10 vacancies in the court, while Ottawa puts figure at nine

The chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court says he is frustrated by the federal government’s “failure” to appoint judges, and is calling on Ottawa to urgently fill at least nine vacancies.

Christopher Hinkson said he is speaking out after exhausting all other options to persuade Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

“I don’t like rushing off to the press and trying to confront the minister in that fashion,” he said Thursday. “But I’ve given up the softer approaches because they simply haven’t worked.

“We still remain with an insufficient number of judges to serve the needs of the public in British Columbia and to provide what has been promised to them, and that is access to justice.”

READ MORE: Three new judges appointed in B.C., two senior judges reappointed

Hinkson said there are 10 vacancies in the court, while the federal government puts the figure at nine. He also wants Ottawa to establish five new judicial positions in B.C.

Most Monday mornings, he said he meets with as many as 10 litigants whose cases have to be delayed — some for a year — because judges are not available.

“I have explained to them that, in my view, they should have had a judge, and if we had a full complement they would have had a judge,” he said. “They doubtless will have had to pay their lawyers to prepare for the case and they will get to do that again.”

The vacancies account for 10 per cent of the B.C. Supreme Court’s judiciary. Judges are overworked, burdened by more complex cases and appear to be retiring earlier, Hinkson said.

Wilson-Raybould’s office overhauled the appointment process in 2016 to boost the numbers of non-white and women judges. It made changes to judicial advisory committees, which review candidates and make recommendations, including requiring members to receive diversity training.

The committee in B.C. has recommended more than nine candidates, said Hinkson, but the minister has rejected them because they were not “suitable,” though he doesn’t know what criteria she is using.

He said while he supports increasing diversity, if people from diverse backgrounds are not applying or do not meet the requirements to be a judge, the positions shouldn’t be left vacant.

“It’s taken a while to have sufficient numbers of women to suggest that they could form an equal part of the court. … It’s the same with other areas that aren’t proportionally represented,” he said. “There aren’t sufficient people in those groups yet to populate the court.

“The minister has said that she wants merit-based appointments. Sometimes, merit is going to dictate that a certain demographic is over-represented on the court because those are where the meritorious people exist.”

Wilson-Raybould said she expects to announce new appointments shortly. Last year she appointed 100 judges, the most by a justice minister in over two decades, and she has made 151 appointments since she became minister in 2015, she said.

“I am deeply proud of the all of the appointments I have made since becoming minister,” she said in a statement. “We are beginning to demonstrate how it is possible to have a bench that truly reflects the country we live in.”

Candidates are assessed on merit and the needs of the court, Wilson-Raybould said.

To create new judicial positions, Wilson-Raybould said the chief justice and the province must provide a business case for an increase, and B.C. has not made a request while she has been minister.

On Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould appointed one new justice to the B.C. Supreme Court and moved a judge to the Appeal Court.

Hinkson said he decided to speak to a small group of journalists on Thursday partly because the former chief justice of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench was vocal and appeared to get Ottawa’s attention. Alberta has more vacancies than B.C., but it received nine new judicial positions this year, he said.

The previous Conservative government left the B.C. court with six vacancies, which climbed to as many as 14 under the Liberals, he said.

“It’s gone on too long.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

In Pictures: Māori girls net a big win on Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii and New Zealand are just a few b-ball games away.… Continue reading

Oil tanker ban to be reviewed by committee

Indigenous groups for and against Bill C-48 travel to Ottawa to influence the Senate’s decision

Man charged following Q.C. house fire that set off explosives

Thomas Daniel Kendall may face up to 14 years for causing bodily harm by breaching duty of care

Wind warning issued for Haida Gwaii today and overnight

Another wind warning has been issued for Haida Gwaii for today and… Continue reading

Haida leaders join coastal First Nations push for tanker ban

Elected and hereditary Haida leaders met some Ottawa senators last week, and… Continue reading

B.C. businesses evacuated due to emailed bomb threat, also received in U.S.

Penticton and Comox Valley businesses evacuated Thursday morning

No plans yet for free WiFi on BC Transit buses

BC Transit says they are monitoring the roll-out of free WiFi on Translink vehicles

Some Kotex tampons recalled in Canada and U.S.

In some cases, tampon users sought medical attention “to remove tampon pieces left in the body.”

Sex-assault squad investigated eight incidents at Toronto all-boys’ school

The interim president of a Roman Catholic all-boys school rocked by student-on-student abuse allegations said the football program was cancelled for next year.

Coal power in Canada must disappear by the end of 2029, new regulations say

Canada has significantly cut its dependence on coal largely due to the closure of all coal plants in Ontario.

‘Naive approach’ to China at fault in Meng mess: Scheer

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called on the Trudeau government to “unequivocally denounce any type of repercussions to Canadians on foreign soil.”

Omar Khadr ‘a model of compliance,’ wants changes to bail conditions: lawyer

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr is back in court today to seek changes to bail conditions.

B.C. man linked to human remains probe gets absolute discharge on unrelated mischief count

Curtis Sagmoen was in Vernon Law Courts Dec. 13 for a mischief trial

Supreme Court upholds Canada’s right to reargue facts in assisted-dying case

Julia Lamb and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association are spearheading a challenge of the law

Most Read