Great Britain

Trudeau nominates first judge of color to Canada’s supreme court

Justin Trudeau has nominated the first judge of color to sit on Canada’s supreme court, a historic first in an institution which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.

Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario’s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the supreme court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.

“He’ll be a valuable asset to the supreme court - and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.

Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.

Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin”.

In 1981 the family moved to Edmonton, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons”, he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.

“I was raised at school as a Christian, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and absorbing the values of the Church of England, and at home as a Muslim, memorizing Arabic prayers from the Quran and living as part of the Ismaili community,” he wrote.

“Like many others, I experienced discrimination as a fact of daily life. As a child and youth, I was taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the colour of my skin.”

He later converted to the Bahá’í faith after marrying his wife, who immigrated to Canada from Iran.

Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population composed of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.

“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.

Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on 1 July.

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