Justice Minister Peter MacKay addresses a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday

Justice Minister Peter MacKay addresses a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday

Baloney Meter: Female judges under Tories

Baloney Meter: Do Peter MacKay's claims about female judges hold water?

By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – “We are indeed examining all means to ensure greater diversity. What’s been lost in all the clatter is that the number and percentage of female judges has gone up.” — Justice Minister Peter MacKay, in an interview with the National Post.

“On the advice of these judicial advisory committees, since 2006, we have appointed 182 highly qualified women to the superior and appeal courts of this country. This is a 17 per cent increase over the previous Liberal government.” — MacKay in a statement on his Facebook page.

___

MacKay has been in hot water for comments he reportedly made to a group of lawyers last month which some interpreted as suggesting women aren’t applying to be judges for fear that circuit-court jobs would take them away from their children.

The Toronto Star said the justice minister made the remarks when asked to explain the dearth of women and minorities on federally appointed courts. MacKay has denied tying the low application rate to child-rearing concerns.

But in a subsequent interview with the National Post, MacKay said he’d been told by lawyers in New Brunswick that women are simply not applying to be judges, particularly circuit judge positions that require travel.

Have the Conservatives indeed done better than the Liberals in appointing female judges? And are women really not applying?

Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney” (complete methodology below).

Each of MacKay’s statements earns a rating of “some baloney.” Here’s why:

THE FACTS

Out of a total of 1,120 federally appointed judges, 382 are women — 34 per cent, as MacKay’s office rightly notes.

Judiciary advisory committees provide the government with the names of potential candidates. Federal justice ministers usually appoint judges based on those recommendations, but are not obliged to do so. Some can be dismissed due to red flags, such as concerns about a candidate’s party affiliation.

The federal government does not release data on how many women are seeking to become judges, but some provinces do.

Ontario, for example, publicly discloses the gender of applicants, and the data suggests many women are indeed applying. The numbers indicate the rate of applications from women to the Ontario court of justice, for example, has been growing steadily over the last two decades.

“In Ontario in 2012 — the last year we have statistics for — women made up 58 per cent of the applicants,” said Erin Crandall, an academic at Queen’s University who has been charting the data federally and provincially.

“To suggest that women aren’t applying for these jobs seems highly implausible, because they’re forwarding large groups to the minister for consideration.”

The work, independence and tenure of federally and provincially appointed judges are essentially the same, said Adam Dodek, a University of Ottawa law professor.

Indeed, federally appointed judges earn “significantly more” money, Dodek said. “So the idea that fewer people might apply for a job that pays better is somewhat counter-intuitive.”

MacKay has suggested the committees, made up of representatives from across the country, are not recommending female applicants. But the federal government still has considerable discretion over who it appoints to the bench.

There were 515 applications submitted for consideration between November 2011 and October 2012; 221 of them were recommended by the advisory committees, according to data from the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada.

Of those, only 43 — 19 per cent — were appointed.

Are the Conservatives really doing a better job appointing women than men? No, said Crandall. The number of women in the legal profession has been growing steadily over the past 20 years, increasing the number of would-be applicants, she noted.

“With the Liberal government over the years, federal court appointments at the provincial level were at a rate of 35 per cent,” while under the Conservatives, the rate has slipped to 32 per cent, she said.

“So if our goal is to reach parity, then we’re not going in the right direction.”

MacKay’s heralding of the 17 per cent increase over the Liberals is almost meaningless without additional data, Dodek added.

“That could be as a result of more women being appointed to the bench, or it could be a result simply of attrition and far more men retiring from the bench than women. In the absence of statistics, it’s hard to say.”

THE VERDICT

Both Crandall and Dodek noted that a key figure — the number of female applicants — is missing from the equation.

Crandall rated MacKay’s statements as containing “some baloney.” While it may be true that female appointments under the Conservatives have increased 17 per cent, it implies the Tories have done better than the Liberals, she said.

“This is not the case. The Liberals from 1993 to 2006 appointed women at a higher rate than the current government.”

METHODOLOGY

The Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:

No baloney — the statement is completely accurate

A little baloney — the statement is mostly accurate but more information is required

Some baloney — the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing

A lot of baloney — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth

Full of baloney — the statement is completely inaccurate

SOURCES

Erin Crandall, Queen’s University http://queensu.academia.edu/ErinCrandall

Adam Dodek, University of Ottawa http://www.commonlaw.uottawa.ca/en/adam-dodek.html

The Canadian Bar Association www.cba.org

Department of Justice Canada http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/

Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada http://www.fja.gc.ca/home-accueil/index-eng.html

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Zahra Rayani-Kanji of Heart Pharmacy, Sidney Pharmacy manager James McCullough, and Naz Rayani, owner and founder of Heart Pharmacy, join sisters Becky Brigham and Judy Costanzo outside the business. Sidney Pharmacy has become the sixth Heart Pharmacy outlet in Greater Victoria after its purchase from Brigham and Costanzo. Their parents, Frances and Jim Brigham, first opened the business in 1959. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney Pharmacy changes ownership, but retains family tradition

First opened by Frances and Jim Brigham in 1959, Sidney Pharmacy is now part of Heart Pharmacy

Ronald Schinners, owner of The Cabbie in the #YYJ, opened his taxi service in the West Shore last month. (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
‘One man show,’ The Cabbie in the #YYJ cultivates 45,000 followers on Instagram

New taxi company brings unusual spunk to the West Shore

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has in the past warned of Öffnungsdiskusionorgien (translated as an orgy of discussions about openings), one of one of the 1,200 words added to the German lexicon as reported by the Leibniz Institute for the German Language. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)
German lexicon grows by 1,200 words, many inspired by COVID-19 pandemic

Öffnungsdiskusionorgie (orgy of discussions about openings) among new entries

A decade into the 100-year blueprint for restoring the Bowker Creek watershed, Soren Henrich, director of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society, feels positive about the future of conservation and daylighting of the creek. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Ten years in, Greater Victoria’s 100-year Bowker Creek blueprint gets a boost

Victoria council passes several restoration recommendations

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ on Sooke Road

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Most Read