News Canada

MPs vet Supreme Court appointee

By Jessica Murphy, Senior Washington Correspondent

Supreme Court of Canada nominee Justice Marc Nadon (L) arrives to testify before an all-party committee to review his nomination with Justice Minister Peter MacKay on Parliament Hill in Ottawa October 2, 2013.  REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Supreme Court of Canada nominee Justice Marc Nadon (L) arrives to testify before an all-party committee to review his nomination with Justice Minister Peter MacKay on Parliament Hill in Ottawa October 2, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA -- Canada's newest top court nominee is a golfer, a bookworm and was once drafted as a teen to the Detroit Red Wings.

In fact, the most controversial revelation in Wednesday's grilling by MPs of Marc Nadon, 64, was that he still backs the Motor City team.

Parliamentarians on the ad hoc committee tasked with reviewing Prime Minister Stephen Harper's latest appointee to the Supreme Court were given strict orders not to press Nadon on his past rulings while on the federal court and federal appellate court bench.

Still, he proved an able stick-handler when faced with unwelcome questions.

MPs tried to pin him down on his 2009 dissenting opinion on the repatriation of convicted terrorist Omar Khadr, who at the time was being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Nadon broke with his two federal appellate court colleagues and argued Canada had done its due diligence in its attempts to protect Khadr while he was in U.S. Custody.

He also argued the Canadian government had the final say in whether a prisoner could be repatriated - an argument the Supreme Court agreed with in their 2010 Khadr decision.

Nadon told MPS Wednesday simply: "that was my assessment of the case and how it should go, and I really can't say anymore."

But Nadon did concede he had his homework cut out for him before being sworn in because of his slim experience in criminal law.

That's a concern when 60% of the cases handled by the Supreme Court are criminal.

The expert in maritime and transport law said he grew up with dreams of being a Crown prosecutor but ended up in private practice. He said he had one of the top skills needed in a judge -- the ability to learn quickly.

"When I went to the federal court, I didn't know anything about patents, and believe me, it's not a simple subject. I learned (tax law) at the appeals court," he said.

On gender parity on the top bench, Nadon said each judge brings his or her own wealth of experience to the job.

After the hearing, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said he wasn't concerned that Nadon's appointment wouldn't change the current gender imbalance at the Supreme Court.

Six of the nine top judges will be men. Nadon will replace retired Justice Morris Fish.

MacKay said more women will be named to the bench in the future, "but legal excellence and merit" are the primary requirements the feds look for in candidates.

The committee has no veto power over the appointee. Nadon is expected to be sworn in within the next couple of weeks.

 


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