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Ford defends political appointments to judge selection committee

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford is defending his government's appointments of two former staffers to a committee that helps select provincial judges, saying he's not going to put Liberals or New Democrats in those roles.

The Toronto Star first reported that Matthew Bondy, a former deputy chief of staff to Ford, is the chair of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee, and Brock Vandrick, Ford's former director of stakeholder relations, is on the committee.

The appointments are made by Attorney General Doug Downey, and Ford said Friday that his Progressive Conservative government got elected "to get like-minded people in appointments."

"I'm not going to appoint some NDP or some Liberal," he said in response to a question at an unrelated news conference in Brampton, Ont.

Ford suggested that judges and justices of the peace are too lenient on criminals, and are letting people out on bail too frequently, so he wants to see more judicial officials appointed who will keep people in jail.

"How would you like it if someone kicked your door in, put a gun to your head, and all of a sudden you find out that criminal that did that is out on the streets the next day?" he said.

"It's unacceptable. So every single appointment I can to find tough judges, tough JPs to keep guys in jail ... I'm going to do it. So, that's part of democracy. You voted a party in."

The committee -- made up of three judges, three lawyers and seven members of the public -- reviews applications and conducts interviews for prospective Ontario Court judges, then sends a ranked list of its recommendations to the attorney general, who appoints someone from that list.

Kristyn Wong-Tam, the NDP attorney general critic, said in a written statement that the appointments raise serious concerns about the impartiality of the process of appointing judges.

"Under this government, we have seen our court system spiral into chaos," Wong-Tam wrote.

"We have seen serious cases get thrown out because of double-bookings and lack of resources, survivors forced to re-live their trauma because of repeated delays. Instead of fixing the mess in our courts, the Attorney General is focused on using their majority to award partisan patronage appointments and erode people's faith in our justice system."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2024.

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