TORONTO, April 8, 1999 - The Honourable Lincoln Alexander, Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), has called on the federal Justice Minister to review recent appointments to the new Unified Family Court in Nova Scotia. He called the exclusion of a senior black woman judge in the province from appointment "a major slap in the face to the Black community."
In a letter to the Honourable Anne McLellan, Minister of Justice, Mr. Alexander expressed grave concern and disappointment with the exclusion of Her Honour Judge Corrine Sparks from the Unified Family Court of Nova Scotia. Judge Sparks' decision, RDS v. The Queen, was upheld and reaffirmed in 1997 by the Supreme Court of Canada and is now considered a groundbreaking authority in the matter of "race." Judge Sparks has served as an important role model not only for people of African ancestry, but also for women and the legal community of Nova Scotia at large.
Moy Tam, Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, said the exclusion of Judge Sparks brings to mind the report of the Ontario Commission on Systemic Racism in the Criminal Justice System, which expressed concern about under-representation of "racialized persons" among judges and lawyers. The Commission's final report stated that: "Under-representation repeats and reinforces an unspoken message, that white skin is an indicator of competence."
"It is essential that Canada's judicial appointment process be seen as fair and just, devoid of systemic discrimination, and valuing competence regardless of colour," said Mr. Alexander. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation has asked the federal Justice Minister to review the procedures leading to this outcome; ensure that the situation is rectified; and ensure that the appointment system for federal judicial appointments is free of systemic bias.