PM nominates first person of colour to the Supreme Court of Canada


Mahmud Jamal

Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, last Thursday nominated Mahmud Jamal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Born in Kenya in 1967 as an Ismaili Muslim and raised in England, Justice Jamal is the first person of colour nominated to the nation’s highest court. According to his submission he “raised at school as a Christian.” His family settled in Canada in 1981, and after he married (his wife was a refugee from Iran) he “became a Bahá’í, attracted by the faith’s message of the spiritual unity of humankind, and we raised our two children in Toronto’s multi-ethnic Bahá’í community.”

“These experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons.,” Justice Jamal continues. “My perspectives on these issues have broadened and deepened over more than 25 years as a lawyer and judge. I practised litigation in a large national law firm where, for most of my career, I was the only racialized partner in its national litigation department.”

An experienced appellate litigator at Osler’s before his appointment to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2019, Jamal appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals in civil, constitutional, criminal, and regulatory matters.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

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, the Standing Senate Committee, and a member of the Green Party will then take part in a question and answer period with the nominee.

The selection process was launched on February 19, 2021 to fill the vacancy created by the upcoming retirement of Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella. 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.

According to Mr. Trudeau: “Respected around the world, Canada’s Supreme Court is known for its strength, independence, and judicial excellence. 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.”