Process for an Application for Appointment

1. Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada and Executive Director, Judicial Appointments

The Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada has the overall responsibility for the administration of the appointments process on behalf of the Minister of Justice. The Commissioner is expected to carry out his responsibilities in such a way as to ensure that the system treats all candidates for judicial office fairly and equally. The Commissioner's responsibility is exercised directly or by his delegate, the Executive Director, Judicial Appointments.

It is the Commissioner's or the Executive Director, Judicial Appointments' particular responsibility, on behalf of the Minister, to ensure that all assessments are completed expeditiously and thoroughly.

2. Expression of Interest and Eligibility

Qualified lawyers and persons holding provincial or territorial judicial office who wish to be considered for appointment as a judge of a superior court in a province or territory or of the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court or Tax Court of Canada must apply to the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada.

Persons interested in applying for Federal Judicial Appointment must complete

  1. Personal History Form, which provides the basic data for the subsequent assessment of, or comment on the candidature by the appropriate advisory committee. Candidates should ensure that this form is completed in full and in accordance with the instructions provided. All information received is treated confidentially.

  2. Authorization Form which allows the Executive Director to obtain a statement of their current and past standing with the law societies in which they hold or have held membership.

  3. Background Check Consent Form. Background checks will be conducted only if the Minister of Justice wants to appoint you to a judicial position following your assessment and recommendation by the Judicial Advisory Committee. A background check is required prior to any appointment to a public office.

Completed forms should be sent to:

Executive Director, Judicial Appointments
Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada
99 Metcalfe Street, 8th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1E3

Tel. (613) 992-9400
Toll Free 877-583-4266
Fax (613) 941-0607

In addition to candidates themselves, members of the legal community and all other interested persons and organizations are invited to nominate persons they consider qualified for judicial office; nominees will be contacted by the Commissioner to ascertain whether they wish to be considered for a judicial appointment.

The statutory qualifications for appointment are set out in the Judges Act, the Federal Courts Act and Tax Court of Canada Act. Generally, they require 10 years at the bar of a province or territory, or a combination of 10 years at the bar and in the subsequent exercise of powers and duties of a judicial nature on a full-time basis in a position held pursuant to a law of Canada or of a province or territory. Appointments to a provincial superior court are made only from members of the bar of that province, as required by the Constitution Act, 1867. Appointments to the superior courts of the three territories are open to all persons who meet the qualifications for appointment within their own province or territory.

Upon determining that a candidate meets the threshold constitutional and statutory criteria for a federal judicial appointment, the Executive Director, Judicial Appointments will forward the candidate's file to the appropriate committee for assessment (lawyers) or for comment (provincial or territorial court judges - see below). This file also includes the law society report concerning the candidate's current or past standing.

3. Provincial and Territorial Court Judges

Provincial or territorial court judges who wish to be candidates must also notify the Commissioner of their interest in a federal judicial appointment by completing a Personal History Form for judges. These candidates are not assessed by the advisory committees, but their files are submitted to the appropriate committee for comments which are then provided to the Minister of Justice, including the results of any confidential consultations undertaken by the committee. These comments are confidential and provided to the Minister only; they are not binding on the Minister, and the names of these candidates are automatically placed on the list of those available for appointment. They must, however, renew their expression of interest every five years failing which, their names will be withdrawn from the list.

4. Judicial Advisory Committees

Independent judicial advisory committees constitute the heart of the appointments process. It is the committees who have the responsibility of assessing the qualifications for appointment of the lawyers who apply. There is at least one committee in each province and territory; because of their larger population, Ontario has three regionally based committees and Quebec has two. Candidates are assessed by the regional committee established for the judicial district of their practice or occupation, or by the committee judged most appropriate by the Commissioner. Each committee consists of eight members representing the bench, the bar, law enforcement associations and the general public:

  • a nominee of the provincial or territorial law society;
  • a nominee of the provincial or territorial branch of the Canadian Bar Association;
  • a judge nominated by the Chief Justice of the province or by the senior judge of the territory;
  • a nominee of the provincial Attorney General or territorial Minister of Justice;
  • a nominee of the law enforcement community; and
  • 3 nominees of the federal Minister of Justice representing the general public.

Each nominator is asked by the federal Minister of Justice to submit a list of names from whom an appointment to the relevant committee can be made. The Minister, with the assistance of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada, then selects persons to serve on each committee who reflect factors appropriate to the jurisdiction, including geography, gender, language and multiculturalism. Committee members are appointed by the Minister of Justice to serve a three-year term, with the possibility of a single renewal.

The Minister meets periodically with the Chairs of all the committees for an exchange of views concerning the operation of the process.

Administrative support for the work of the committees, including information sessions and guidelines concerning confidentiality and other committee procedures, is provided by the Judicial Appointments Secretariat of the Office of the Commissioner.

All committee proceedings and consultations take place on a confidential basis.

5. Judicial Advisory Committee for the Tax Court of Canada

This Committee is comprised of 5 members: one judicial nominee designated by the Chief Justice of the Tax Court of Canada and four nominees of the Minister of Justice appointed to reflect Canada's linguistic and geographic diversity.  There shall be at least one member from each of the following regions:  Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario and Western Canada. 

Please note that an application for the Tax Court of Canada that includes an application for another court or courts will be sent to the Advisory Committee for the Tax Court, as well as to the relevant Advisory Committee for any other jurisdiction.

6. Assessments and Confidentiality

Extensive consultations in both the legal and non-legal community are undertaken by the committee in respect of each applicant.

Professional competence and overall merit are the primary qualifications. Committee members are provided with Assessment Criteria – see separate document - for evaluating fitness for the bench; these relate to professional competence and experience, personal characteristics, and potential impediments to appointment. Committees are encouraged to respect diversity and to give due consideration to all legal experience, including that outside a mainstream legal practice. Broad consultations by the committees, and community involvement through these consultations, are essential elements of the process.

The committees are asked to assess candidates on the basis of two categories - "recommended" or "unable to recommend" for appointment. These categories reflect the advisory nature of the committee process. Once the assessment has been completed, candidates are notified of the date they were assessed by the committee but are not provided with the results of the assessment. The results are kept confidential and solely for the Minister's use.

The committees set their own agenda as required, depending on the number of applications received and the judicial vacancies to be filled by the Minister of Justice. When completing and submitting their application, candidates should consider that definite Committee meeting dates are not always set in advance and it may take several months to process an application before sending it to the committee for assessment.

Following receipt of the committee's assessment, the Minister may at his discretion seek further information from the committee on any candidate. On those occasions when a committee's advice may be contrary to the information received from other sources by the Minister, the Minister may ask the committee for a reassessment of the candidate.

NOTE: Provincial and Territorial court judges are the only candidates who are not assessed by the committees. However, Committees will provide the Minister with a commentary on each such candidate.

7. Duration of Assessments

Lawyer candidates are notified of the date they were assessed by the committee, and assessments are valid for a period of two years from that date. During that time, a “recommended” candidate remains on the list of those available for judicial appointment by the Minister of Justice. If a lawyer candidate continues to be interested in being considered for appointment after the above two-year expiry date, a new Personal History Form must be submitted during the three months preceding the expiry date. In that case a new committee assessment is undertaken, and a candidate remains on the list until the new assessment is completed. A new Personal History Form can also be submitted after the expiry date, but in that case a previous assessment will cease to be valid.

Each candidate's assessment must be certified by the Commissioner or the Executive Director, Judicial Appointments prior to its submission to the Minister of Justice.

The files of all candidates are maintained in a separate and confidential data bank in the Commissioner's office, for the sole use of the Minister of Justice.

8. Appointments

Federal judicial appointments are made by the Governor General acting on the advice of the federal Cabinet. A recommendation for appointment is made to Cabinet by the Minister of Justice with respect to the appointment of puisne judges, and by the Prime Minister with respect to the appointment of Chief Justices and Associate Chief Justices.

The recommendation to Cabinet is made from amongst the names which have been previously reported by the committees to the Minister.

Before recommending an appointment to Cabinet, the Minister may consult with members of the judiciary and the bar, with his or her appropriate provincial or territorial counterparts, as well as with members of the public. With respect to provincial and territorial court judges who apply for appointment to a superior court, the Minister may consult with that candidate's current Chief Judge as well as with the Chief Justice of the court for which the candidate is being considered. The Minister also welcomes the advice of any group or individuals on the considerations which should be taken into account when filling current vacancies.

The title "Honourable" is conferred on the new judge upon appointment.