It is not often that a lowly Interim columnist gets invited to the swearing-in of a new Canadian Supreme Court Justice at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Prime Minister Jean Crouton and Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson were there, along with a large number of tuxedo-clad middle aged men.
I was ill-prepared for the arrival of the new Supreme Court appointee, Madam Lucille Edwards. She was wearing black leather boots up to her waist, an orange turtleneck sweater and she had more makeup on than I have seen on Elizabeth Taylor. Madame Lucille Edwards apologized profusely.
“I’m sorry I’m late. I went fishing in the Restigouche river in New Brunswick and the salmon were jumping so high I just couldn’t leave!”
“Mr. Prime Minister, could we ask Madam Lucille Edwards some questions?” asked a press gallery journalist.
“Go ahead. She has nothing to hide.”
“Do you feel that you are qualified to sit on the Supreme Court?”
Madame Edwards, with a bright red beret perched jauntily on her head and over part of her forehead, stared icily at the questioner through her square, coloured glasses, and replied: “I think I am highly qualified to sit as a Supreme Court Justice.”
“Regarding your qualifications,” asked another journalist, “Madame Lucille Edwards, do you believe that candidates for the Supreme Court of Canada should be vetted by a non-partisan committee as to their suitability?”
“I don’t think it’s fair to turn the selection of a Supreme Court justice into a media circus like in the U.S.A. All you succeed in doing is pry into everybody’s personal affairs.”
“But how are we in the media – representing the Canadian people – to determine your suitability for the job? Don’t you believe in a mandatory review of candidates for the Supreme Court, as suggested by Paul Martin?”
“The prime minister’s decision to choose a Supreme Court justice is made after considering a list of candidates compiled by the justice minister in consultation with the Canadian legal community. He picks them from people who are extremely well known – visible for 30 or 40 years. Former chief justice Lamer said the proof the current system works is that he couldn’t think of a bad appointment in Canada in the past 20 years.”
“I can think of 40 of them!” I cried out.
“Dat is great exaggeration!” said Crouton, his face reddening.
“What do we know about these candidates for the Supreme Court?” I persisted. “What do they think about various issues? Abortion? Homosexuality? Same-sex unions? Euthanasia? Abortifacient pills? Cloning? What?”
“If I may quote Antonio Lamer, soon we will be asking personal questions about the candidate’s sex life, whether he had a mistress or she had a lover 25 years ago. Is that relevant?”
“If he or she has any personal morals or values, their stand on these issues will shape their decision-making on the court!” I insisted.
“The Supreme Court justice will try to remain impartial,” she replied, “holding no partisan positions.”
Jean Crouton piped up, visibly angry. “I don’t think dat you are being fair to Lucille. She has been very carefully screened by de committee and Lucille will make a fine Supreme Court justice. Dat I can promise you.”
Another journalist ignored him and asked: “You mean he or she has no values to base his or her judgements on?”
“I’m sure that a Supreme Court Justice is picked on the basis of his or her qualifications,” she said.
“Oh,” said another journalist, looking at his notes. “Madam Edwards, what are your qualifications? Other than a law degree from Carleton University? Some rapid departures from some dubious law firms? A deep and personal relationship for years with someone of the same sex? You ran six times unsuccessfully for the Liberal party federally in what were euphemistically called ‘lost ridings’?”
“I served the Liberal party loyally and I’m not ashamed of that.”
“You annually headed up five fundraising dinners for the federal Liberal party for the past 10 years? It has taken 15 years and counting to get some charge of embezzlement against you into court? There are an embarrassing number of old charges by your clients of absconding with trust funds? Need I go on?”
Jean Crouton was shocked. “Lucille, I think it is time for me to make you de ambassador to Luxembourg.”