By Dr. MUNYONZWE HAMALENGWA, Barrister and Solicitor
Now that the coast has cleared and the drunkenness that had been induced by Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s statement that women and minorities do not apply for judgeships and hence their paucity has died down, it is time to ask some unasked important questions.
What magic wand did the Justice Minister wave on Canadians for them to be sent on such a wild goose chase with his statement, which was utterly false but imbibed anyway by the population? Judicial appointments at the three levels of the court system over which MacKay or the federal government exercise jurisdiction are not filled by applications. There are no advertisements for appointment to the Superior Courts or equivalent in other provinces, the Courts of Appeals of the provinces and the Supreme Court of Canada whatsoever. There are no transparent application processes at all.
MacKay misspoke when he said that women and minorities do not apply to these positions. The population was misled into believing that there are application processes. The media pundits were incredible in their zeal to accept this false premise and in giving us massive analysis without ever pointing out that MacKay’s statement was a pie in the sky.
When vacancies occur at the Superior Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada, the appointment process and how those who are appointed come to be appointed is not transparent or accountable. Studies have indicated that only the politically connected get appointed to these posts.
Some studies have demonstrated that only those who have contributed funds and time to political organizations of the party in power get appointed. These individuals have cultivated political brokers to sponsor them. For appointment to the Supreme Court, one needs to engage in an unprecedented political and legal campaign involving well-oiled lobbyists, Rabbis, political heavyweights, women’s groups, justice ministers, law societies and other establishment groups.
The war for appointment is ferocious. And it is still governed by the old White-boy and White-girl network. That explains why there are no minorities at the Supreme Court of Canada and most provincial Courts of Appeal. That also explains why there are very few minorities in the Superior Courts of the provinces.
This lack of women and minorities is what Mackay was trying to cover by his deliberate misstatement that women and minorities do not apply to the court levels over which the federal government has jurisdiction. And the mainstream media picked up the story and amplified on the part that dealt with women (i.e., White women) and left out the aspect involving minorities. The reporters who covered the story are mainly White mainstream reporters. This also explains why when judges are appointed; most are White men and White women because those who ventilate for them are mainstream White reporters. That is the reality in Canada.
What to do now? There is a lot of work ahead. There needs to be ongoing campaigns to appoint minority lawyers to judgeships, and not any type of minority lawyer but lawyers who will not sell out. We do not want token Black judges who are spineless and who resent other Blacks. We prefer the Thurgood Marshalls of this world. We prefer the Juanita Westmorelands of this world. We detest the Clarence Thomases of this world. We also need a cadre of Black reporters and other organizations to take up the cause of judicial appointments.
Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa is the author of The Politics of Judicial Diversity. He can be reached at 416-644-1106 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or website www.munyonzwehamalengwa.ca