OTTAWA — Justice of the peace Julie Lauzon will return to the bench following an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling in her favour, which found the punishment she received for writing a 2016 column criticizing Canada’s bail system was unjust.
A review council had previously recommended Lauzon be removed from the bench after the National Post column prompted complaints from the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario.
Lauzon challenged the decision, arguing that her judicial independence was under threat due to complaints emanating from government, and that she was protected by the right to free expression.
The appeal court found errors were made in the proceedings and reinstated Lauzon, downgrading her punishment to a retroactive 30-day suspension without pay.
It found that her article accurately identified real problems with Canada’s bail courts, and she “tapped a deep well of justifiable discontent” in criticizing the system.
Lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, who represented Lauzon, said the judgement is a “complete vindication.”
The Thursday ruling said the situation that prompted the initial decision to remove Lauzon from office did not reflect the high bar established for such a recommendation.
“Lauzon is deeply committed to the improvement of the system of justice,” the decision said.
Greenspon said the fact the complaints stemmed from offices of the Crown violated the separation of powers and violated judicial independence.
“You can’t have one arm of the government complaining against the judiciary to the point where she ends up losing her job,” he said.
The Court of Appeal ruling said it was possible to see Lauzon’s removal from office “as an instance of the successful interference by the executive branch, within which Crown prosecutors function, against judicial officers who take issue with the conduct of Crown prosecutors in courtrooms.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2023.
The Canadian Press