In December 2016, SABA Toronto wrote to the Attorney General of Canada advocating for change to the Federal Court residency rule.
We thank the Attorney General for taking the time to respond:
Dear Mr. Agarwal:
Thank you for your correspondence, sent on behalf of the South Asian Bar Association of Toronto (SABA), concerning the residency requirement for judges of the Federal Court. I regret the delay in responding.
I am pleased to receive your organization’s input on matters within my mandate, particularly relating to judicial appointments.
As you know, section 7(1) of the Federal Courts Act requires judges appointed to the Federal Court to reside within 40 kilometres of the National Capital Region. Some form of the current provision has been in place since the establishment of the Court’s predecessor and applies equally to the other courts established under section 101 of the Constitution Act. While the residency requirement was considered necessary at the time, I understand that our institutions must evolve to meet the expectations and needs of the Canadians they serve. Having a judiciary that is reflective of the diversity of Canadian society is of paramount importance to me and was a crucial part of the recent reforms to Judicial Advisory Committees. These reforms have already permitted the Government to appoint a diverse range of excellent candidates.
Please be assured that I appreciate being made aware of SABA’s view that a change to this requirement, or perhaps the establishment of a rota for other major cities, could eliminate or reduce a barrier for applicants from the South Asian community. I have shared your correspondence with the appropriate departmental officials, who will consider the matters you raise in their review of the residency requirement to determine whether alternatives exist that would meet the needs of the Court, be cost‑effective, and enhance opportunities for a broader range of lawyers to consider applying for appointment to the Court. However, it is important to note that, as with all policy changes involving legislative amendments, any proposals would have to be considered by Cabinet and, if approved, would require the identification of an appropriate legislative opportunity to be enacted.
In the meantime, I have shared your views with the Chief Justice of the Federal Court. He is aware of this issue and, as a result, has a progressive approach to scheduling. The legal talent of the South Asian community runs very deep, and I strongly encourage members of SABA to consider applying for appointment to the bench.
Thank you again for writing. Your commitment to advocacy and policy development is truly appreciated.
The Honourable Jody Wilson‑Raybould, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada