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Updated: Wed, 04 Jun 2014 00:43:43 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Justice Clément Gascon to fill Quebec vacancy on Supreme Court



New Brunswick is struggling with how to proceed with prostitution charges after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down prostitution laws and gave the government one year to re-write legislation. CBC

New Brunswick is struggling with how to proceed with prostitution charges after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down prostitution laws and gave the government one year to re-write legislation. CBC

In his second attempt to fill a Quebec seat on the Supreme Court of Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced the appointment of Justice Clément Gascon to the top post.

“Mr. Justice Gascon’s wealth of legal knowledge and experience will be of significant benefit to this important Canadian institution," Harper said in a written statement.

Gascon replaces Justice Marc Nadon, who was to fill a vacancy left by Justice Morris Fish last spring.

The government named Nadon last fall to fill Fish's position, but the Supreme Court ultimately found Nadon was not qualified to fill a Quebec seat because he is neither a current Quebec lawyer nor a Quebec judge from a superior or appeals court.

Gascon is currently a judge of the Quebec Court of Appeal, on which he has served since 2012. Before that he served as a judge of the Quebec Superior Court from 2002.

He also spent 21 years with the Montreal-based law firm Heenan Blaikie, specializing in civil and commercial litigation.

Gascon will start on the job next Monday.

2nd choice well-received

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée told CBC News she was satisfied with Harper's pick.

The Quebec bar association said in a written statement that Gascon's appointment to the top court was "excellent news" for Canadians.

NDP justice critic Fançoise Boivin said Gascon was "a stellar" appointment with "a great reputation."

Quebec Liberal MP Stéphane Dion said Gascon is "a well-regarded judge."

"I think Canadians will be pleased," Dion said.

Appointment final

Harper's second pick is final and will not be subject to further vetting by Parliament.

"We said we would act quickly to ensure the Supreme Court has a full complement of judges. Both the Liberal Party and the NDP have repeatedly called on us to fill this seat quickly," a spokesman for Justice Minister Peter MacKay said in a written statement.

"In moving to appoint Mr. Justice Gascon, we have done precisely that," Paloma Aguilar said.

The federal government said it consulted with the Quebec government, Quebec's chief justice, the chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court, as well as the Canadian Bar Association and the Quebec bar association before appointing Gascon.

Harper will have to fill another vacancy when Justice Louis Lebel retires on Nov. 30.

Both the New Democrats and Liberals expressed concern around the process surrounding Lebel's replacement given the way the government handled Nadon's appointment and his rejection by the Supreme Court. 

In a spat with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the Conservatives went as far as to suggest she acted improperly when she tried to contact Harper about potential legal problems with Nadon's appointment.

Boivin added that she hoped Harper would consider choosing a woman to replace Lebel.

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