By Sean Fine - Justice Reporter for The Globe and Mail
Women make up more than half of Ottawa's court appointments in June, in sharp contrast with the government's record on gender balance on the courts.
Twenty-two of the 43 new appoints are women. Just 30 per cent of the judges appointed by the Conservative government from 2006 until Feb. 18 of this year were women, according to Marc Giroux, deputy commissioner of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs office. The proportion of candidates who applied was also 30-per-cent female, as was the proportion of candidates given a "recommended" rating by the 17 judicial advisory committees across Canada that screen those who wish to become judges, Mr. Giroux said.
And the most senior courts - provincial appeal courts and the Federal Court of Appeal - the government appointed six women and five men in June.
"It's fantastic they're listening," said Linda Robertson, a Vancouver lawyer and co-chair of the Canadian Bar Association's Women Lawyers Forum. "The government is responding to all that's been written in the press. The bar associations and the law societies have been calling for this."
So eager was the government to proclaim its new commitment to women on the bench that it added a line to its news releases last week when it announced three new judges - all of them men: "Through these appointments, the Government of Canada has demonstrated an awareness of the need to bring greater gender balance to the bench, to help ensure that the judiciary is more representative of Canadian society."
The government also named Winnipeg lawyer Regan Thatcher, a sole practioner in Winnipeg, to the Family Court Division of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench. Mr. Thatcher is a son of Colin Thatcher, a former Saskatchewan cabinet minister who was convicted of killing his ex-wife JoAnn (Regan;s mother), in 1983.
Regan's mother and father had a drawn-out battle over custody and support in the years leading up to the shooting. Regan later testified to urge a jury to recommend an early parole hearing for his father. The Conservative government has since scrapped the so-called faint-hope law that allowed convicted murderers to ask for permission to apply for parole after 15 years.