By Gudrun Schultz
OTTAWA, Ontario, February 28, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) –The judge first in line to fill a vacancy in Canada’s Supreme Court said in a nomination hearing yesterday that it is not up to judges to decide on social policy issues.
During questioning by a committee of MP’s under the new judicial appointment process Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said he does not support judicial activism.
“I’m not sure that I would be comfortable thinking that judges should be advancing the law with a social agenda in mind,” he said. “It seems to me that the social agenda is the agenda for Parliament.”
“Where Parliament wants to advance the law in social terms, that’s their job — that’s your job. The courts’ job is really to take what you say about social issues and try to interpret it as best we can and apply it to the facts.”
Judge Rothstein said that although the Charter of Rights may sometimes “force” judges into policy decisions by allowing legislation that may violate a right when “demonstrably justified,” most laws passed by democratically elected legislatures do not intend to violate the Charter.
“Therefore, [judges] have to approach the matter with some restraint,” he said. “But the most important thing is that they apply a rigorous and thorough analysis and if they do that, then I’d say that they’re doing their job. If they depart from that, it might be a different thing.”
Prime Minister Harper has said in the past that justices who pursue a social activist agenda unduly influence Canada’s court system. He accused the Liberal government of deliberately using justice appointments to bypass the Canadian public in pushing through controversial legislation, such as the legalization of same-sex “marriage.”
ÂIn the final days of the 2006 election, Harper said the qualities he would look for in judicial appointees would include “the ability to competently and shrewdly and wisely apply the laws that are passed by the Parliament of Canada.”
Judge Rothstein, 65, is a Federal Court of Appeal judge from Manitoba. The Globe and Mail described his demeanour at the hearing as “quiet, respectful and occasionally witty.”
Justice Minister Vic Toews, who chaired the committee, said he would recommend that Mr. Harper confirm Judge Rothstein’s appointment, which the Prime Minister is expected to do on Wednesday.
See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:
Courts Stacked With Liberal Judges says Conservative Leader Harper