Today, the only formal qualification to be a judge in Canada, other than one in Citizenship Court (to which this article does not apply), is to have first been qualified as a "barrister or advocate" (i.e., a lawyer) for at least ten years in "any province". This quirky minimum eligibility legislation is not intended to exclude lawyers who do transactional work (solicitors) or who are licensed in one of the three territories. Some provinces require judges to be Canadian citizens.
The next stage is review by the regional Independent Advisory Committee in which the applicant resides. Each of these 16 Committees consists of seven judges, lawyers, and lay citizens appointed by the Law Society, Canadian Bar Association, the Chief Justice of the province, the Attorney General of the province, and the federal Justice Minister. The members of this Advisory Committee are identified on the Commissioner's website. While this Committee process is confidential, apparently extensive consultations in both the legal and non-legal communities are undertaken for each judicial applicant. A Committee assessment is reached and each applicant is placed into one of the following categories: "recommended," "highly recommended," or "unable to recommend" for appointment. Recognizing the advisory nature of this Committee process, these results are given to the federal Minister of Justice who is free to request more information, or a reassessment, and who may make any appointment to the bench. One expects that diversity is a political factor in such appointments that could override, or add to, the formal assessment.
This Independent Advisory Committee process has been in place one and a half years. Of the 527 recommendations made by Committees, only a minority (44%) were recommended for appointment at all, and less than 12% were "highly recommended." About 16% of "highly recommended" or "recommended" applicants were appointed to judgeships. The statistics are as follows for the period November 1, 2004 to October 31, 2005:
Bowal Peter, "Help Wanted: Judges", Law Now, Jun/Jul 2006, Vol. 30, Iss. 6; p. 1.