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This article was published 27/3/2019 (263 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould says federal officials should consider investigating leaks to the media involving highly confidential information about two Manitoba judges, including the claim that she sought to promote an Indigenous justice.
"I strongly condemn anyone who would speak about, or provide information, on such sensitive matters," Wilson-Raybould wrote in an email to the Free Press. "I feel that there should be consideration of having some sort of investigation as to the source of this information."
Wilson-Raybould was responding Wednesday to reports regarding her choices for Supreme Court appointments as well as those of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Conservatives have asked the federal judicial affairs commissioner to investigate the leaks.
Conservative justice critic Lisa Raitt sent a letter Wednesday to judicial affairs commissioner Marc Giroux arguing that it appears "political actors" leaked information about an appointment to the country’s highest court.
On Monday, CTV and The Canadian Press reported that Wilson-Raybould had sought to have Glenn Joyal, the chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, appointed as chief judge of the Supreme Court. Trudeau chose an Alberta judge instead.
Supreme Court appointments and applications are highly classified. After the issue became public, Joyal issued a statement that said he had applied and then withdrew his candidacy because of his wife’s illness.
The Globe and Mail reported Tuesday that Wilson-Raybould had sought to put Joyal on the Supreme Court in order to promote another Manitoba judge into the position Joyal would have vacated.
The article, which cited unnamed sources, claimed that she wanted provincial court Justice Ken Champagne, who is Métis, to replace Joyal as chief justice in the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench. This would have made him the first Indigenous head of any superior court in Canada.
A spokeswoman said Champagne was abroad this week, and unavailable for comment.
Wilson-Raybould said she could not confirm the accuracy of the media reports. She said she was not the source of the leaks, and that she had not authorized anyone to speak on her behalf.
Prior to the Globe reporting on Champagne, the Manitoba Bar Association had called the first media leak about Joyal "highly disconcerting."
The story claimed that Trudeau had concerns that Joyal would try to roll back Charter of Rights and Freedoms rulings about gay rights and access to abortion. The bar association called those "entirely improper, and indeed false" insinuations.
Wilson-Raybould did not respond when asked whether Joyal and/or Champagne were owed an apology over the leaks. She wrote that divulging information about the Supreme Court appointment process "could compromise the integrity of the appointments process, our institutions and potentially sitting justices. This has to stop and given the seriousness of this matter."
Academics have also called on Trudeau to probe the source of the leak, noting that he did not reject an assertion that they came from someone in his office.
Critics say even revealing which judges applied for postings could make others reluctant to do so, claiming it unfairly casts doubt on their commitment to their existing roles. The applications require large amounts of confidential information.
Winnipeg Liberal MP MaryAnn Mihychuk said she was "very surprised" by the leaks, and wasn’t sure whether they merit an investigation.
"Privacy and confidentiality when it comes to the appointments of judges is sacrosanct, and it should not have been leaked; it’s completely inappropriate," she said.
Joyal was appointed the head of Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench in 2007 by the Harper government. It was unusual because he had been moved from the Manitoba Court of Appeal, which is the highest court in the province. The Harper government never explained its rationale.