Weighing Senate reform without three Quebec judges ignores province’s rights, minister says

The country’s top court is disregarding Quebec’s constitutional rights by hearing a government reference on Senate reform while the appointment of a third judge from the province is still in question, Quebec’s Intergovernmental Affairs Minister says.

Alexandre Cloutier said he views the reference, which the Supreme Court will hear next week, as one of the most significant cases the court has addressed in recent years and one that should be heard by a full slate of Quebec judges. The province’s National Assembly passed a motion last week calling for all three Quebec judges on the court to be present for cases that are important to the province.

 “Quebec will have the chance to make its case and make its arguments,”

“If this guarantee does not allow us to have three judges on the bench at a time when it counts the most, then we have to question what it really means,” Mr. Cloutier said in an interview on Thursday. “It certainly affects Quebec’s constitutional right to have three judges on the bench.”

The Supreme Court Act requires three of the court’s nine judges to be from Quebec, but does not specify that all must be at every hearing. The act requires a minimum of five judges for quorum.

The federal government appointed Justice Marc Nadon to the third Quebec seat earlier this year, but he has stepped aside until his colleagues rule on whether a Quebec judge can be appointed to the Supreme Court from the Federal Court of Appeal.

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This content has been updated on August 23, 2014 at 12:19.