Indian-origin Justice becomes first person of colour to be nominated to Supreme Court of Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has nominated Indian-origin Justice Mahmud Jamal to the Supreme Court of Canada, becoming the first person of colour to be named to the apex court of the country.

Trudeau announced Jamal’s nomination on Thursday to replace the retiring Rosalie Silberman Abella, the first refugee and first Jewish woman to sit on the top court. 

I am pleased to announce the nomination of Justice Mahmud Jamal to the Supreme Court of Canada. I know that Justice Jamal, with his exceptional legal and academic experience and dedication to serving others, will be a valuable asset to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said in a statement .

Justice Jamal, who is in his mid-fifties, had a distinguished career as a litigator with a deep commitment to pro bono work prior to his appointment to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 2019, the Prime Minister’s office said.

He appeared in 35 appeals before the Supreme Court of Canada on civil, constitutional, criminal, and regulatory issues. He also taught constitutional law at McGill University and administrative law at Osgoode Hall Law School, it said. 

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and the Chairperson of the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments will soon appear before a special hearing of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to discuss the selection process and the reasons for the nomination.

Members of the House of Commons Standing Committee will then take part in a question and answer period with the nominee, joined by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and a member of the Green Party of Canada.  

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It represents the fourth nomination under the Supreme Court appointment process launched by the Government of Canada in 2016 to promote greater openness, transparency, and accountability, the statement said.

In a questionnaire submitted as part of his application to the Supreme Court, Jamal said: “I was raised at school as a Christian, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and absorbing the values of the Church of England, and at home as a Muslim, memorising Arabic prayers from the Quran and living as part of the Ismaili community.” 

Justice Jamal was born in Kenya to a family originally from India. The family moved two years later to Britain. In 1981, Jamal’s family moved to Canada, settling in Edmonton where he completed high school, CTV News said.

He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto, Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Civil Law degrees from the Faculty of Law, McGill University, and a Master of Laws from Yale Law School, which he attended on a Fulbright Scholarship. 

He served as a law clerk to Justice Melvin Rothman of the Quebec Court of Appeal and Justice Charles Gonthier of the Supreme Court of Canada.

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