Lesson 4: Legal Independence and the Rule of Law

Topic 3: Judicial Appointment

In Canada, judges are appointed by the Governor in Council following recommendations by committees made up of judges, lawyers and “lay persons” (people from the community). These committees make recommendations to either the provincial or federal government. Provincial Court judges are appointed by the Attorney General of the provincial government, and judges in the Supreme Court of Canada, the Supreme Court of BC and the Court of Appeal for BC are appointed on the recommendation of the federal minister of justice or the Prime Minister.

Politicians and civil servants do not control judges, nor does the Prime Minister. Once appointed, judges must answer only to the law and their own conscience. No judge may hold any other remunerative office under the federal or provincial government, nor engage in any business enterprise. Judges must devote themselves exclusively to their judicial duties.

Judges must make decisions without being influenced by the government that appointed them or by society in general. For this reason, federally appointed judges are appointed to “the bench” until the age of 75; provincial court judges are appointed until age 70. They receive a fair salary that is not subject to control by those who might want to influence them.