Appointments of female judges slump under Harper's Tories - The Globe and Mail 11-12-21 10:21 AM
Appointments of female judges slump under
JUSTICE REPORTER— From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Nov. 11, 2011 7:49PM EST
Last updated Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 10:29AM EST
The appointment of female judges has diminished to a trickle under the Harper government,
dashing any hopes that equal gender representation is on the doorstep.
Only eight women have been appointed to the federal judiciary this year, compared to 41 men.
Figures for 2010 were only slightly less skewed, with 13 women and 37 men being given
The discrepancy is likely to rekindle calls for reform to an opaque process that provides the
government with considerable leeway to choose candidates for undisclosed reasons.
“Those are shocking figures,” said Elizabeth Sheehy, a University of Ottawa law professor. “This is
part of a very ominous pattern for Canadian women. The government owes an explanation to
Canadians and especially to women in the legal profession.”
There are currently 356 female judges among the total of 1,117 federally appointed judges on the
bench. Parity had been within reach until the numbers began to skew under the Conservatives in
2006. In 2005, then-justice minister Irwin Cotler appointed female candidates approximately 40
per cent of the time.
Mr. Cotler said he is disappointed by the plunging proportion of women. “The numbers should
leap out and tell you something is wrong here,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that the people being
appointed are not good candidates, but when you have that kind of configuration, something is
just not reflecting the proper equities.”
Julie Di Mambro, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said 30 per cent of the 420
judges appointed since 2006 were women. She said that figure reflects the number of women who
apply for judgeships and are recommended by a committee that vets applications.
In the past, governments could point to a preponderance of men in the legal profession to explain
the discrepancy. However, the ratio of men to women has changed so dramatically that females
typically outnumber males at law schools.
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In Ontario, for example, women comprised just 5 per cent of Ontario lawyers in 1971. By 2006, the