In Monday morning’s cabinet shuffle, prime minister Justin Trudeau appointed David Lametti, MP for the Montreal riding of LaSalle–Émard–Verdun, as the new federal justice minister and attorney general, replacing Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was shuffled to veterans affairs.
“I love the law,” Lametti told reporters assembled at Rideau Hall after he was sworn into office. “I have done my best to teach and to think about the ways in which law has an impact on our daily lives. I will continue to do that,”
Lametti received his Common and Civil Law degrees from McGill University in 1989, and went on to receive an LLM from Yale Law School in 1991, and a doctorate in law at Oxford University. He was a clerk to Supreme Court of Canada Justice Peter Cory from 1989 to 1990, and later went on to teach law at McGill.
“The challenges are different when you’re a law professor and when you’re an MP,” Lametti added. “I’ve already begun to live that over the past three years, and as a cabinet minister, I guess we’ll take it to the next level.”
Lametti is an expert in property and intellectual property, and taught civil and common law property, intellectual property, property theory and ethics. He also co-founded the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy.
Elected in 2015, Lametti served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade, and later to the minister of innovation, science, and economic development.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in French that Lametti has been an essential member of the team since the Liberals took power, and that in his previous career teaching law at McGill, Lametti was known not only for his legal analysis but also his mentoring young leaders across the country.
Of the outgoing minister, Wilson-Raybould, Trudeau also offered praise.
“From modernizing how we appoint judges to bringing in legislation around medical assistance in dying, Jody has demonstrated tremendous skill in navigating very complex files,” Trudeau told reporters.
Conservative justice critic Lisa Raitt offers praise for Lametti’s appointment.
“Minister Lametti has an impressive academic background and it is evident that he was an effective Parliamentary Secretary when filling in for Ministers during Question Period,” says Raitt. “He has a number of files before him with which we have serious concerns, but I have no doubt that we will have a cordial and professional relationship when we return to the House.”
Canadian Bar Association president Ray Adlington extended congratulations to Lametti.
“We look forward to meeting him in the coming weeks to discuss issues of mutual interest on which we can work together,” says Adlington.
Dominic Lamb, partner at Edelson & Friedman Barristers LLP, and president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa, says that his members are looking forward to a positive and constructive dialogue with the new minister.
“We have been disappointed by the track record of this liberal government since 2015, particularly given the mandate letter provided the outgoing minister, and the legislation ultimately brought forward,” says Lamb. “We are of the view that almost every promise of consequence has been thrown by the wayside, instead the core criminal bills have brought a multitude of regressive new procedural and substantive laws.”
Michael Spratt, partner at Abergel Goldsein & Partners LLP in Ottawa, also lists places where he hopes Lametti will address issues of concern to the defence bar.
“He has a lot of work to do,” says Spratt. “Bill C-75, the massive overhaul of the justice system, is before the Senate, and is going to require significant work as it moves through the Senate and likely comes back to the House with amendments.”
Spratt adds that mandatory minimum sentences, the rolling-back on sentencing changes around conditional sentences and other non-custodial forms of sentencing, dealing with the ongoing work of de-coupling mental health and addiction issues as well as poverty from the Criminal Code, and the over-representation of Indigenous people in the justice system as having been largely untouched.
“It needs to have significant movement and significant work put into it,” says Spratt. “The justice agenda over the last three years has not been very ambitious.”