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(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Oct. 31, 2005)

Liberal 'Godfathers' rule bench appointment

John Pifer

Don’t believe the egregious media overkill -- the biggest and most important story of the week is not the lame Gomery Report that paints Prime Minister Paul Martin either as a saint or a complete doofus concerning the corruption within his Liberal Party of Canada.

The mindless sheep who are the voters in this country – and especially in Ontario – will ignore the systematic ingrained corruption that has been exposed, ever so slightly now, within this political party. Pathetically, they are likely to return the Liberals to the power they so lust after, without any cogent thought for the sickness that festers within our alleged democracy. The sponsorship “scandal” is but the mere tip of that iceberg.

No, THE story of the week was that of Mary Eberts, a constitutional lawyer who had the audacity and tenacity to speak of the cronyism and old-boys network within the Liberals’ legal-profession hierarchy. Speaking before a House of Commons sub-committee looking into reform of the federal judicial appointment process, Ms. Eberts testified that she believed her bid to become a Federal Court judge was killed because she had “pissed off” prominent Liberal “godfathers”.

Contrasted with the wall-to-wall media coverage of the predictable Gomery garbage, Ms. Eberts’ story received piddling attention in the newspapers, and virtually none at all in the medium from which most people get their News McNuggets – television.

This brave lawyer actually asked the committee to change the system so that partisan friends and financial supporters to the Liberals were not surreptitiously appointed to judgeships. What a concept!

Ms. Eberts is to be commended for shedding some light on the dare-I-say-corrupt practice so beloved of the Liberals. She and judicial expert Peter Russell jeer at rhetoric from Liberal justice ministers who maintain that partisan connections do not play a role in Federal Court appointments.

“I believe that a massive act of hypocrisy sits at the heart of our legal system because of the politicized nature of this process. The reality (is) that you cannot get through the process without a political mentor or team of mentors,” according to Ms. Eberts.

She says the current methods “would be condemned … if it was a hiring process in any other sector.” Describing a process that would make the Mafia proud, Ms. Eberts speaks of regional or provincial “bosses” who can give thumbs up, or down, to a prospective judge, and of “prominent Liberal godfathers in the legal profession” with powers to derail any appointment.

For the record, a vetting committee rejected this former governor of the Law Society of Ontario in 1997; but this summary of the cronyism does not sound at all like sour grapes to this scribe.

Coincidentally, the federal law society is pontificating in its current media-friendly campaigns, issuing statements such as: “Justice thrives when it is administered in an open and transparent fashion; and (it) withers when it operates in secret according to the dictates known only to a few. It is critical that the judicial appointment process is open to public scrutiny.”

If judges and lawyers across Canada truly believe that, how wonderful. The politicians sureinhell do not.

Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at


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