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Prince Edward Island Court of Appeal

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Judicial Independence

Why is Judicial Independence Important to You?

What does "judicial independence" mean?

Judges must be free, but obliged, to decide on their own.

Judges must be set apart from someone else’s influence or supervision.

Judges must be insulated against and independent from any and all sources of improper influence. This includes:

  • All forms of coercion, threat or harassment, direct or indirect;
  • Whether from government, politicians, persons in authority, relatives, neighbours, interested parties, fellow judges, chief justices, judicial bodies or organizations.

Why do we expect our judges to be independent in Canada?

  • Judges are individuals tasked with deciding matters in dispute. In cases that go to court there is often a “winner” and a “loser” such that in most cases half of the people and sometimes all may not be “pleased” with the outcome.
  • The Canadian system of law guarantees a “fair” trial, not a “favourable” outcome.

The fundamental concept of judicial independence exists for the benefit of all citizens, not judges.

Why does judicial independence protect the judges, the decision makers, from improper influence?

  • To ensure that their decisions will be based upon the law as it applies to the evidence presented and properly admitted, in order to do justice between the parties.

This protection is enforced so that:

  • Citizens will know they were dealt with fairly, that they received a fair trial, and a fair hearing; and
  • Judges are insulated from any improper outside influence and who were bound only by their conscience and the law. Typically, the oath of office of Canadian judges includes “to do right according to law.”

In simple terms “judicial independence” is a matter of trust:

  • Canadians need to know that legal disputes will be decided fairly, impartially, according to law, and in open court for the entire world to see.

Judicial independence is the shield that secures and protects those fundamental, constitutionally enshrined values:

  • That is why judicial independence is a hallmark of Canada’s constitutional democracy; and
  • That is why Canada’s citizens must remain vigilant and loudly protest against any attempt, from any quarter, to impede, frustrate or diminish judicial independence.

Judicial independence is important to you because it guarantees that judges are free to decide honestly and impartially, in accordance with the law and evidence, without concern or fear of interference, control, or improper influence from anyone.

Information is available on the Canadian Judicial Council website.
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