Pubdate: Tue, 14 Nov 2006
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2006 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Alexander Panetta, Canadian Press


Support Tory Plan But Legal Experts Oppose It

OTTAWA -- A national police group is defending the Conservative
government's decision to let officers participate in the selection of
federal judges.

The Tory plan to add a seat for police officers to the seven-member
judicial advisory committees in each province has been blasted by
legal experts.

They warn it will politicize the legal process, increase the chance of
patronage and give the federal justice minister too much sway in the
committees, which make recommendations to the minister about potential

But the head of the Canadian Professional Police Association says he's
astounded by the criticism.

"I was very surprised -- shocked, even -- to see that some people
would prefer remaining in their ivory towers," association president
Tony Cannavino said Monday.

"These (officers) will bring to the table an important, practical
perspective on the justice system. . . "We would enrich the
discussion. It's an advantage and those crying wolf today will see
within a year, a year and half, that the change was

Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and the Canadian Bar
Association have criticized the government move, warning that it risks
compromising the independence of the judicial system.

But Cannavino said police officers have a bird's eye view that nobody
else can provide on the work of future judges. Police frequently deal
during court cases with both defence and Crown lawyers, and can offer
a third-person account of their work, he said.

"You can't ask for more than that -- people who worked closely with
them, who had a chance to observe the quality of their arguments,
their depth . . . and how well they prepare their cases."
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