Trudeau’s 2017 decision to appoint Richard Wagner as former chief justice Beverley McLachlin’s replacement speaks to that lack of partisanship on Canada’s highest court. After all, the prime minister who first appointed him to the Supreme Court was one Stephen Harper. “Cabinet ministers, as we all know, come and go,” former federal justice minister and University of Alberta professor of law Anne McLellan told the CBC back in 2017. “But the chief justice, once appointed, will be there, bar unforeseen situations, up until mandatory retirement.”
That Trudeau chose to put a Harper appointee in that most powerful of roles speaks to the reality that Canada’s high court is fundamentally different than the one in the United States, where justices almost never break ranks with the party that appointed them. So, too, do some of Trudeau’s other appointees to the Supreme Court, who include Nicholas Kasirer (who was first appointed to the Quebec Court of Appeal by Harper) and Malcolm Rowe (who advised Conservative Fisheries and Oceans Minister John Crosbie from 1986 to 1992).