Ottawa revives Law Commission of Canada, announces hires for key roles

OTTAWA — The federal government is reviving an independent commission to offer advice to cabinet on reforming Canadian laws, and has announced its picks for key roles.

McGill University law professor Shauna Van Praagh will begin a five-year term as president of the Law Commission of Canada in June.

Two other commissioners, Sarah Elgazzar and Aidan Edward Johnson, have been appointed to four-year terms.

The Liberals' 2021 federal budget said the government would spend $18 million over five years and $4 million in ongoing annual funding on a renewed Law Commission of Canada.

The government says the commission will support efforts to create an inclusive and accessible justice system that protects marginalized and vulnerable communities.

Its last iteration was shuttered by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2006.

Previous versions of the commission had recommended changes to Canadian law including creating a unified family court, updating the Bank Act and removing restrictions on same-sex marriage.

The commission was first created in 1971 on the recommendation of the Canadian Bar Association. When in operation, the commission has typically been populated by legal experts, practising lawyers, former law enforcement officers and advocates sitting on an advisory council.

The commission will also be able to answer questions about proposed legislation and how new bills could be affected by international laws, including trade agreements.

Ottawa frequently finds itself pushing through legislation to address court rulings that identify gaps or strike down outdated or unconstitutional sections of law, such as on sex work, mandatory minimum sentencing and medical assistance in dying.

The commission is expected to be tasked with identifying those potential gaps and helping the government proactively address them before the courts are forced to.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2023.

David Fraser, The Canadian Press