The data-based state of the union. Plus Uber ordered to offer accessible rides, McCarthy adopts AI, and a Quebec court protects Jewish community centres.


5 min read

  • Big data energy

  • Uber ordered to offer accessible rides

  • McCarthy pushes forward with AI adoption

  • Quebec court safeguards Jewish community buildings

  • Manitoba tables enhanced abortion protections



Dickson v. Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation

Forcing elected officials to reside within First Nation

Feb 7, 2023

(13.0 mos)

Société des casinos du Québec

Unionization of low-level casino managers

Apr 20, 2023

(10.6 mos.)

R. v. Tompouba

Remedy for breach of French-trial rights

Oct 11, 2023

(4.9 mos.)

Jim Shot Both Sides v. Canada

Suing for a treaty breach without relying on s. 35 of the Charter

Oct 12, 2023

(4.9 mos.)

R. v. Edwards; R. v. Christmas; R. v. Brown; R. v. Thibault

Impartiality of military judges

Oct 16, 2023

(4.7 mos.)

On average, decisions take 5 months


Vacancies skyrocketed in 2022 and hovered around all-time highs throughout 2023. But it’s been a busy two months for appointments. Since the start of January, Justice Minister Arif Virani added 15 new judges to the federal and superior courts.

Was it enough to make a dent? Did last week’s five BC-based appointments finally strip BC of its “most vacant jurisdiction” title? Here’s a look at the numbers.

Line chart showing judicial vacancy rate across Canadian federal and superior courts. Rate increased from 2011 to Feb 2023, hitting a peak of 9.3% in that month. Rate has now declined to 6.8%.

Canadian courts are certainly better staffed than they were last year. With just under 7% of positions sitting empty, we’re no longer in uncharted territory. But the vacancy rate is still remarkably high in the context of the past 15 years.

Bar chart showing comparison of all Canadian jurisdictions. Alberta, BC, Ontaio, and Saskatchwan exceed the national average

As it stands, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan are the worst off — each has a vacancy rate above the national average. And poor BC still holds the top spot, despite last week’s large batch of appointments. Five new judges should have brought BC’s vacancy rate down to second place, but — likely because of a retirement — the number of sitting judges in the province only increased by four.

BC isn’t the only jurisdiction where Virani’s top-line number didn’t generate the expected results. In total, his 15 recent appointments only reduced the number of vacancies by 10. It’s hard work battling against a never-ending stream of departures.

Bar chart showing change in judicial vacancy rates. Comparing Feb 1, 2023 and March 1, 2024 for four jurisdictions. Alberta, BC, and Ontario have declined, while Saskatchewan has gone up.

It’s not all bad for the above-average crop. The provinces atop the list of most vacant jurisdictions have generally seen significant improvements since last year — except for Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is one of only two jurisdictions where the vacancy rate has increased since February of last year. The other is Nova Scotia, which saw an increase from one vacancy (2%) last February to three vacancies (6%) this month.

What’s the target? According to the Federal Court decision issued by Justice Brown last month, the federal government should reduce the number of judicial vacancies to somewhere around the mid-40s (about 4.5% of total positions). That would mean appointing another 20-25 judges, net of retirements. His current pace is strong, but Virani has his work cut out for him.



🧑‍🦽BC’s Human Rights Tribunal ordered Uber to provide wheelchair-accessible transportation in the province’s Lower Mainland. Uber argued that BC legislation gives it the option to pay a per-ride fee instead of offering accessible rides. But the tribunal disagreed. Uber also has to pay $35,000 to the man with a physical disability who brought the complaint. The tribunal’s decision is available here.

🦾 McCarthy Tétrault is leaning in when it comes to artificial intelligence.

🙅 A Quebec judge granted an interim injunction that blocks protests within 50 metres of six Jewish community buildings in Montreal. The 10-day injunction expires next week.

🏥 Manitoba introduced legislation to protect abortion rights, also by limiting protests. The proposed legislation would create a protest-free zone around abortion clinics, hospitals where abortions are performed, and the homes of abortion providers. The legislation is similar to laws that exist in Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec.

Dylan Gibbs

That’s all for today. If there’s something you’d like to see in this newsletter (perhaps in chart form) — let me know!

You can also find me on LinkedIn and X/Twitter @DylanJGibbs.

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