Government of Canada announces judicial appointments to the Federal Courts

News Release

June 23, 2017 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada  

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today announced the following appointments under the new judicial application process announced on October 20, 2016. The new process emphasizes transparency, merit, and diversity, and will continue to ensure the appointment of jurists who meet the highest standards of excellence and integrity. 

John B. Laskin, partner at Torys LLP, is appointed a judge of the Federal Court of Appeal. He replaces Madam Justice E.R. Dawson, who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective January 14, 2017.

William F. Pentney, Q.C., Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada, is appointed a judge of the Federal Court. He replaces Mr. Justice M.L. Phelan, who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective June 16, 2017.


Justice John B. Laskin practised litigation for more than 30 years in the Toronto office of Torys LLP. In his broad trial and appellate practice, he represented individuals, corporations, governments and their agencies, public institutions, industry associations, public interest groups, and Indigenous organizations. He appeared in the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Courts, every level of court in Ontario, the courts of seven other provinces and territories, domestic and international arbitrations, and a variety of administrative tribunals.

Justice Laskin is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and of Litigation Counsel of America, and has been a member of the Ontario Regional Committee of the Supreme Court Advocacy Institute. He has spoken, written and taught frequently on matters of public law and advocacy, and is co-editor of Canadian Charter of Rights Annotated. Before entering private practice, he was a professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.

Born in Thunder Bay, Justice Laskin holds a B.A. (with distinction) from York University, an LL.B. (as Gold Medallist) from the University of Toronto, and an LL.M. from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a past member of the board of Holy Blossom Temple and past President of the University of Toronto Law Alumni Association, and was actively involved in the founding of the Faculty of Law at Lakehead University. In 2015, he was awarded the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Law Society Medal, given for outstanding service within the legal profession where the service is in accordance with the highest ideals of the profession. He is married with three children and (so far) five grandchildren.

Excerpts from Justice Laskin’s judicial application will be available shortly.

Justice William F. Pentney was appointed Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada on November 5, 2012. He first joined the public service in 1991 as General Counsel and Director of Legal Services at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, where he remained until 1999.

From 1999-2006, Justice Pentney held a number of positions within the Department of Justice, including Senior Assistant Deputy Minister for the policy sector, and Assistant Deputy Attorney General for the citizenship, immigration and public safety portfolio. From 2006-2007, he was Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet (Priorities and Planning) at the Privy Council Office. He later became Associate Deputy Minister of the Department of National Defence. Justice Pentney served as Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Plans and Consultations) at the Privy Council Office until his appointment as Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada.

Prior to joining the public service, Justice Pentney was a professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. He holds a B.A. from Queen’s University, in addition to an LL.B. and a master’s in public law from the University of Ottawa. Justice Pentney is the author of several books and articles, including the revised edition of Justice W. Tarnopolsky’s text Discrimination and the Law in Canada and Human Rights and Freedoms in Canada: Cases, Notes and Materials (with Mark Berlin). ‎

Excerpts from Justice Pentney's judicial application are available.

Quick Facts

  • Budget 2017 includes additional funding of $55 million over five years beginning in 2017-2018 and $15.5 million per year thereafter for 28 new federally appointed judges. Of these new positions, 12 will be allotted to Alberta and one to the Yukon, with the remaining 15 being assigned to a pool for needs in other jurisdictions.
  • To ensure a judiciary that is responsive, ethical and sensitive to the evolving needs of Canadian society, the Canadian Judicial Council will receive $2.7 million over five years and $0.5 million ongoing thereafter. This will support programming on judicial education, ethics and conduct, including in relation to gender and cultural sensitivity.
  • Federal judicial appointments are made by the Governor General, acting on the advice of the federal Cabinet and recommendations from the Minister of Justice.
  • The Judicial Advisory Committees across Canada play a key role in evaluating judicial applications. There are 17 Judicial Advisory Committees, with each province and territory represented.
  • Significant reforms to the role and structure of the Judicial Advisory Committees, aimed at enhancing the independence and transparency of the process, were announced on October 20, 2016.
  • The Judicial Advisory Committees in ten jurisdictions have been reconstituted. Most recently, Minister Wilson-Raybould announced the composition of three new Judicial Advisory Committees on April 13, 2017.
  • This process is separate from the Supreme Court of Canada judicial appointment process announced on August 2, 2016. Nominees to the Supreme Court of Canada are selected by the Prime Minister from a thoroughly vetted list of candidates. 



For more information, media may contact: 

Kathleen Davis
Communications and Parliamentary Affairs Advisor
Office of the Minister of Justice

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

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