National Post

Saturday, February 27, 1999

MPs split over censuring McClung
Reform backs judge's right to speak out

Robert Fife, Ottawa Bureau Chief
National Post

Liberal and New Democratic MPs are calling for action to be taken against Justice John McClung for his remarks concerning Supreme Court Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dube, but the Reform Party is backing his right to speak out.

John Maloney, a Liberal MP and chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, said consideration should be given to bringing Judge McClung before the Canadian Judicial Council, a federal judicial watchdog that has the authority to recommend judges be removed.

"In my opinion, he overstepped the bounds," said Mr. Maloney, who noted lower court judges are not supposed to publicly criticize decisions of Canada's highest court. "That (CJC) option should certainly be considered. I mean this was a very important decision on the law of sexual assault."

The Canadian Judicial Council would not confirm or deny yesterday if it had received a written complaint over Judge McClung's unprecedented criticism of Judge L'Heureux-Dube.

Nelson Riis, the NDP's deputy leader, questioned Judge McClung's competency in sending a strongly worded letter to the National Post which linked Quebec's growing male suicide rate with Judge L'Heureux-Dube's written legal opinion in the landmark "no means no" ruling on sexual assault.

"It sounds like this guy is losing it," said Mr. Riis, who called on the government to reprimand Judge McClung. "There are tolerable limits that a judge cannot go beyond and he has gone over the line. To maintain the integrity of the Canadian justice system we simply can't turn a blind eye to these judges that ought not to be in the position that they are, and making these kind of outlandish public statements."

But John Reynolds, the Reform party justice critic, said Judge McClung was justified in publicly criticizing Judge L'Heureux-Dube and for raising concerns about ideologically determined judges.

Mr. Reynolds said it was "unfortunate" that Judge McClung made the comments about the rise in male suicides in Quebec which could be interpreted as a personal attack on Judge L'Heureux-Dube whose husband, Arthur, committed suicide in 1978.

However, the MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast said Judge McClung is right to criticize the Supreme Court which he said has been making a lot of bad decisions in recent years.

"He is another judge so you have to have some respect for that. I mean it gets right down to the basics, not only in this case but in others, people are starting to question the Supreme Court rulings we are getting," he said.

"He is a judge and he sees it every day. All I can say is that I agree with him 100%."

A spokesman for Anne McLellan, the federal Justice Minister, said she had no comment on the controversy. The office of Judge L'Heureux-Dube and Antonio Lamer, the chief justice, also had no comment.

However, Hedy Fry, the Minister for the Status of Women, rallied to the defence of Judge L'Heureux-Dube and lauded the high court for overruling Judge McClung.

Ms. Fry said she agreed with Judge L'Heureux-Dube, who wrote in a separate legal opinion that Judge McClung's acquittal promoted "archaic myths and stereotypes about sexual assaults."

"If I were a man I would be offended by that, that I am only governed by my hormones, that I do not have any intelligence or self-discipline" said Ms. Fry.

From the National Post Archives

UA's judicial criticisms based on U.S. system
Article published February 23, 1999.

Supreme Court decisions raise critics' hackles
Article published February 23, 1999.

Right wants power back from courts
Article published February 22, 1999.

Reform MP finds peace in the land of nod
Article published February 6, 1999.

Judging Judges
Editorial published February 23, 1999.

Preserving the courts' Charter monopoly
Commentary article published February 11, 1999.

Much Ado about Kiddie Porn
Commentary article published February 3, 1999.

Related Sites

Jurist Canada
The leading judicial website.

Robed Dictators
A long article arguing that Parliament, not judges, should be the only maker of laws.

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