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Study finds lack of ethnic diversity among Canadian judges

This week, CBC News published an article by The Canadian Press about a study recently posted in the magazine Policy Options that concluded that of the 2,160 judges in superior and lower provincial courts, only three per cent are members of “racial minorities” and only one per cent is Aboriginal. 

In the lower provincial courts where most criminal cases are tried, out of 1,132 judges, 52 are of a visible minority and 19 Indigenous. In Ontario, one-fourth of the population “identifies as a visible minority,” but only 24 of 334 lower court judges are of visible minorities, according to the article.

The Canadian Press quotes Mi’kmaq lawyer Naiomi Metallic as characterizing the Canadian bench as a “judiciary of whiteness” that does not reflect the composition of Canadian society. The piece also cites Métis lawyer and law professor Marilyn Poitras for the idea that a broader Indigenous view within the judiciary would ultimately impact crime prevention. 

Lawyer and Canadian Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, a member of the We Wai Kai Nation, has reportedly committed to expanding diversity among Canadian judges.   

Last month, the Toronto Star published an editorial on the subject of the need for a more diversified bench across the country. The editorial also points out that female judges are underrepresented. 

Noting that minority groups like black and Indigenous people face criminal charges at a higher proportion than their numbers in society would suggest they should, the Star suggests that the underrepresentation of diversity among judges will impact negatively the confidence of such defendants in our court system. Reportedly, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin has voiced similar concerns.