Canada’s Supreme Court has rejected its new member. Here’s how this changes Canada’s constitutional debate

On Oct. 3, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Federal Court of Appeal Judge Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). In the Canadian system, the prime minister has wide discretion in choosing Supreme Court judges (Parliament has no advise-and-consent function), so the process of filling a vacant seat is normally a fairly straightforward affair.

Not this time. On Friday, in a stunning 6-to-1 decision, the SCC announced that Justice Nadon was ineligible to serve on the court and that his appointment was void. How is it that Canada’s final court of appeal was left to assess and ultimately reject one of its own members? It’s an extraordinary case, one that is a product of Quebec’s unique representational guarantees, as well as the longstanding constitutional ambiguity that surrounds the SCC itself.

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