Justice Mahmud Jamal is the first person of color to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Mahmud Jamal to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). Jamal will succeed Justice Rosalie Abella, who is retiring, and will be the first person of color to serve on Canada’s highest court.

The Liberal administration established a non-partisan advisory group headed by former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell prior to Jamal’s nomination. Trudeau was given three to five names from the council, including Jamal’s.

The board’s recommendations are non-binding, and interested parties such as the Chief Justice, provincial and territory Attorneys General, Cabinet Ministers, and opposition justice critics examined the list.

The Supreme Court Act of 1985 provides rules for the selecting procedure. “Any individual who has been a judge of a superior court of a province or a barrister… with at least ten years of standing” may be appointed as a judge under section 5. There are no geographical criteria for the selection procedure, apart from the need that three justices be from Quebéc (section 6 of the SCA). Three justices from Ontario, two from the four western provinces, and one from the Atlantic provinces have historically filled the other six seats on the court. Trudeau said in a news release that he “knows Jamal will be a great addition to our country’s highest court, given his outstanding legal and academic expertise and commitment to helping others.”

As part of the evaluation process, applicants were asked to fill out a questionnaire. The results of Jamal’s questionnaire have been made public. It reflects his extensive litigation experience prior to his nomination to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2019. On civil, constitutional, criminal, and regulatory matters, he appeared 35 times before the Supreme Court. Jamal formerly taught constitutional law and administrative law at McGill University in Montreal, Quebéc, and Osgoode Hall in Toronto.

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