Meet Clement Gascon, the unvetted Quebec judge joining the SCC
Supreme Court of Canada Justice Clement Gascon speaks during a welcoming ceremony at the Supreme Court of Canada, in Ottawa, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Monday, October 6, 2014 11:22AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 6, 2014 8:09PM EDT
Quebec Justice Clement Gascon will take his seat on the Supreme Court of Canada this week after a quiet appointment by a government stung by a public feud with the chief justice and the ultimate rejection of its previous appointee.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper named Gascon to the top court in early June. Gascon fills a Quebec spot on the court left vacant by the retirement of Justice Morris Fish more than a year ago. This is the longest a seat has remained vacant in 139 years.
The 54-year-old father of three publicly thanked the Supreme Court of Canada and Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin at his welcome ceremony Monday. Gascon then joked he wanted to use his camera to take a selfie photo “but the judiciary is not there yet.”
Gascon said his wife had likened his appointment to the top court “like appointing an alcoholic the president of the LCBO” – a reference to Ontario’s liquor control board.
Gascon also said he feels blessed to serve in the appointment and he’s looking forward to the task, bringing with him feelings of “pride and apprehension.”
“I want to make sure I am worthy of the trust placed in me,” he said. “I intend to live up to the challenge to the best of my abilities. Like all the members of the court, I want to maintain the essential trust of Canadians in their judiciary. I hope I’ll be able to make the justice system more effective, more intelligible, more accessible to my fellow Canadians.”
McLachlin praised Gascon as a “hard-working and gifted jurist.”
Gascon was named to the Supreme Court after Harper’s first choice to fill the seat, Federal Court Justice Marc Nadon, was ruled ineligible last March. Nadon’s rejection led to a falling out between the Harper government and McLachlin.
For Gascon’s appointment, Justice Minister Peter MacKay skipped normal protocol and said Gascon would not have to appear before a parliamentary committee, as the current Supreme Court selection process calls for, because that process is now under review.
As Gascon takes his seat, here’s a look at the top court’s newest judge.
Who is Justice Clement Gascon?
Gascon was born in Montreal in 1960, and received his law degree from McGill University in 1981. He was called to the Quebec bar in 1982 and spent 21 years in the Montreal office of one of Canada’s top firms, Heenan Blaikie.
While there, Gascon’s focus was civil and commercial litigation, and labour law. He was the partner who oversaw the firm’s litigation work from 1994 to 1999.
While working as a lawyer, Gascon also taught business, labour and construction law at the Universite du Quebec and at McGill. He also co-wrote books, articles and other publications on various employment law issues, particularly employment contracts.
He was appointed to the Quebec Superior Court on Oct. 10, 2002, and to the Quebec Court of Appeal on Apr. 5, 2012.
Gascon brings with him cases on controversial issues such as assisted suicide and the gun registry.
When the prime minister announced Gascon’s appointment last June, he said Gascon’s “wealth of legal knowledge and experience will be of significant benefit to this important Canadian institution.”
Harper added that Gascon was appointed following “broad consultations with prominent members of the Quebec legal community.”
Gascon had not appeared on the short list of Quebec judges that a parliamentary committee had submitted to the prime minister last year, when Harper selected Nadon.
Gascon is married to Quebec provincial court judge Marie Michelle Lavigne. The couple has three children.
- With files from The Canadian Press