Sometimes, it pays to read past the headline. That’s certainly the case with a recent National Post story titled “Trudeau’s Law Society,” one that suggested “it’s no coincidence that more judges who donate to the Liberal party are brought to the bench than Conservative donors.” The Investigative Journalism Foundation, a news organization that partnered with Postmedia on the story, went even further by tweeting that its story “shows that the federal Liberals appear to be stacking the courts with their supporters.”

Thirteen paragraphs down, the reader — if they make it that far — discovers that only 18.3 per cent of the Liberal government’s 1,308 judicial appointees made a political donation, with 76.3 per cent of them having donated to the Liberals. That means 13.9 per cent of their appointees donated to the Liberals, with 86.1 per cent either not donating or donating to one of the opposition parties. “I’m not saying the data is a problem,” former Trudeau economic adviser and policy consultant Tyler Meredith tweeted, “but when 4 out of 5 people appointed aren’t contributing at all, to anyone, the favouritism angle looks far less than sensational header (sic).”

Ironically, this matches reporting from Postmedia back in 2010, which showed 66 of the 270 judges the Harper Conservatives had appointed at that point had made political donations, with 41 of them having donated to the Conservative Party of Canada. A further 25 had names that matched political donors — mainly Conservative ones — but couldn’t be verified as the same people. If you include them in the list, that’s 33.7 per cent of judicial appointees who were political donors, with 72.5 per cent of them donating to the CPC.

Postmedia’s editors clearly didn’t agree. Earlier this week, they published the second story in this ongoing collaboration, one that highlighted six Superior Court justices who had attended Liberal fundraisers “shortly before being appointed.” It beggars belief that any government would appoint someone to the bench because they attended a $1,625 fundraiser, and the reporting again ignores the pattern of appointment under the previous government, one that included former justice minister Peter MacKay appointing the best man at his wedding and an old friend of his father to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. As Press Progress reported back in 2015, MacKay had personal and financial ties to six of the nine appointments he made to Nova Scotia courts.

Same as it ever was, in other words. If anything, the Trudeau government has made important strides towards depoliticizing the appointment of judges. That’s particularly true of the ones sitting on the Supreme Court. By appointing former prime minister Kim Campbell to chair an independent advisory board that recommended a short list of candidates, constitutional expert and author Emmett Macfarlane argued: “Trudeau has introduced an advisory process that will limit his own discretion. A selection committee will be recommending him a set of names for consideration, so patronage and ideology are even less likely to dominate the process.”

Trudeau’s 2017 decision to appoint Richard Wagner as former chief justice Beverley McLachlin’s replacement speaks to that lack of partisanship on Canada’s highest court. After all, the prime minister who first appointed him to the Supreme Court was one Stephen Harper. “Cabinet ministers, as we all know, come and go,” former federal justice minister and University of Alberta professor of law Anne McLellan told the CBC back in 2017. “But the chief justice, once appointed, will be there, bar unforeseen situations, up until mandatory retirement.”

That Trudeau chose to put a Harper appointee in that most powerful of roles speaks to the reality that Canada’s high court is fundamentally different than the one in the United States, where justices almost never break ranks with the party that appointed them. So, too, do some of Trudeau’s other appointees to the Supreme Court, who include Nicholas Kasirer (who was first appointed to the Quebec Court of Appeal by Harper) and Malcolm Rowe (who advised Conservative Fisheries and Oceans Minister John Crosbie from 1986 to 1992).

We have, in other words, avoided the sort of overt politicization of our highest court that has come to define — and may eventually destroy — America’s democracy. And for some reason, Conservatives want to see that change. “We need to stop the Supreme Court from weakening people’s rights,” then-UCP leadership candidate and former federal Conservative MP Brian Jean said last year. “That means electing a Conservative prime minister, for certain, and understanding that selecting judges is the most important thing we can do ... so we have people that align with our thoughts.”

David Parker, the founder of Take Back Alberta and a key player in the UCP government where Jean now sits as a minister, went even further. “The legal system in this country has been captured by radical leftwing extremists,” he tweeted, “who use it to impose their morality on the rest of the world. They must be stopped. We must remove these ideologues from all of our institutions, democratically.”

So far, we have avoided the sort of overt politicization of our highest court that has come to define — and may eventually destroy — America’s democracy. But for some reason, Conservatives want to see that change, @maxfawcett writes. #cdnpoli

They fully intend, in other words, to weaponize Canada’s judiciary and the independent and apolitical appointment process that helps fill it out to further their own political ends. Expect that campaign to ramp up in the weeks ahead, as the Supreme Court is set to deliver its decision on the constitutionality of the Impact Assessment Act (a.k.a. Bill C-69) — one that Alberta’s Court of Appeal has already declared unconstitutional. As constitutional lawyer Martin Olszynski noted recently, “If that law is upheld as constitutional, expect a vicious but baseless smear campaign against our judiciary.”

It’s up to the rest of us to push back against that. Fighting for judicial independence may not be as sexy as battling for freedom or justice, but those are just two of the many things that can't and won’t exist without it.

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Thanks for this. My local paper a Nat. Post mini-me has been flogging this angle relentlessly for roughly a week. Today's version is by the ever spiteful Tasha Kheiriddin "Liberals friends in high places".
The Conservative press and politicians are hungry for power, masters of manipulation and misinformation, and let's not kid ourselves anti-environmentalists when it comes to unabashedly protecting and promoting the oil and gas industry, and the forever++ chemical industry. That's why, I find it difficult to believe anything the CPC and its well connected minions print, publish, or say. Thank goodness for the National Observer which is like an antidote to the right-wing's full court press to undermine J.T. and install P.P. who aligns with their narrow world view.

Thanks for getting me simple truth, documented fact. Other papers were misinforming me.

" with 76.3 per cent of them [judges] having donated to the Liberals. "
See! It is so easy to distort statistics with simple arithmetic and then take them out of context. So beware - there are lies, damn lies and Poilievre statistics!

Hanhh! And I thought judges were not allowed "political speech." Given that $$ seems to be interpreted as speech, shouldn't donations by judges be not allowed?

Modern Conservatives do not believe in the rule of law. They believe in "law and order", but what that means to them is that legal enforcement serves them, serves their agenda and their leadership and steps on everyone else. That's why they can with a straight face call it tyranny when the police deny the slightest thing to their violent blockaders, while simultaneously applauding vicious, lawless crackdowns on protesters they disagree with--to them, law and order is DEFINED as serving their agenda; if it's failing to do so, that's "tyranny". Equality under the law, disinterested administration of justice--those aren't a thing for the modern right wing.

By an odd co-incidence, there is a well known political grouping partly defined by this kind of thinking. Not that I'd call modern Conservatives fascists . . . OK, maybe I would.

Meanwhile, modern Conservative leadership do not want to be in charge of the system as it exists. I won't say they have a clear end goal, like they explicitly want a dictatorship or anything. But they have a functional goal: They want all the power. All of it. They don't want "the libs" or "the socialists" keeping any of it just because the system is built with checks and balances or because a bunch of people voted for them or whatever. They don't care about liberal democracy, or the independence of the judiciary, or the theory of the "loyal opposition" or any of that shit.

In any given situation, they will do what they can to grab more of the power, whether it's by cheating at elections or gerrymandering or buying the press or appointing biased judges or ignoring parliamentary principles or changing laws to favour themselves or stacking the senate or, if they thought they could get away with it, a coup. This is different from the Liberals, the NDP, or the Conservatives back in Lyin' Brian's day and before--those parties want to win the game, but they like the game board pretty much the way it is, so if they lose, they go back and play the game again next time. Modern Conservatives are totally willing to burn down Atlantic Avenue to stop the enemy from getting it. Not that I'd call them fascists . . . or maybe I would.

Why hold back? THEY don't. After years of bothsidesism from progressives where we generously and fair-mindedly include the hell out of them on every front; remember after Trump was first elected the agonizing over how to talk to these fascists who just need to be understood as to why they've "voted against their own best interests?" I went to a forum at the university here entitled, "How to Talk to Conservatives About Climate Change?"
I think this started with genuinely wanting to bridge the gap as it were, but over time became what it is now, which is full-on passive-aggressive virtue-signalling for the purposes of baiting them. I don't mind outing their orc nastiness with pride parades, sidewalks, drag queen story hours, ever longer acronyms and now "pronouns" to show how achingly precious we all are about young people (again, this is genuine, we ARE far nicer and kinder people) but while we're doing this back and forth with our respective medias, they're busy organizing and have won government in 7 jurisdictions. Like Trudeau said about the convoy guys, "they don't want to be listened to, they want to be obeyed."
You can't change people with closed "minds," with made-up minds, you just have to marginalize and ultimately bury them by uniting all the political power on the left to just walk over top of them with your natural majority, the thing they refuse to admit.
And ever behind the scenes, TBA is doing this now:

Bill Maher has called it a "slow motion coup" for years (he also predicted that Trump wouldn't leave if he lost) but it seems to be speeding up now. Like climate change.