Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has nominated Ontario judge Mahmud Jamal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Justice Mahmud Jamal has had a distinguished career, throughout which he’s remained dedicated to serving others. 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. https://t.co/GSoW3zCU3b— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 17, 2021
Jamal, who would be the first person of colour to sit on the top court, was a longtime litigator before becoming a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal two years ago.
As a lawyer he appeared in dozens of appeals before the Supreme Court on a wide variety of issues.
Jamal, fluent in English and French, also taught constitutional law at McGill University and administrative law at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Born in Kenya in 1967, to a family originally from India, Jamal moved two years later to Britain. He was raised in England, and completed high school in Edmonton before pursuing a bachelor of arts at the University of Toronto and law studies at McGill and Yale University in the United States.
He would fill the vacancy on the top court created by the retiring Rosalie Abella.
In a questionnaire submitted as part of his application to the Supreme Court, Jamal said that because he attended Anglican schools, he received a hybrid religious and cultural upbringing.
"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 Qur'an and living as part of the Ismaili community," Jamal 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."
In 1981, Jamal's family moved to Canada, settling in Edmonton where he completed high school.
"Our first few years here were hard. My parents struggled to make ends meet. They opened a restaurant and dreamed of financial stability but were soon left bankrupt," Jamal wrote. "Despite their challenges, they always encouraged education."
Jamal says his wife also came to Canada as a teenager, a refugee from Iran fleeing the persecution of the Bahá'í religious minority during the 1979 Revolution.
She spent several years in the Philippines before being welcomed by Canada and settling in Innisfail, Alta.
After they married, Jamal became a Bahá'í, attracted by the faith's message of the spiritual unity of humankind, and the couple raised their two children in Toronto’s multi-ethnic Bahá'í community.
"These experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons," Jamal wrote. "My perspectives on these issues have broadened and deepened over more than 25 years as a lawyer and judge."
Members of the House of Commons justice committee and Senate committee on legal affairs, along with a member of the federal Green party, will soon take part in a question-and-answer session with Jamal.
The session will be moderated by Marie-Eve Sylvestre, dean of the civil law section at the University of Ottawa's faculty of law.
Photo courtesy of Twitter.