Trudeau appoints first person of colour to Canadian Supreme Court

Mahmud Jamal is a bilingual Kenyan-born jurist

FILE PHOTO: A worker raises a Canadian flag in front of the Supreme Court building in Ottawa March 21, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday appointed Mahmud Jamal to the Supreme Court.

The nomination breaks an important glass ceiling: in the Supreme Court's nearly 150-year history, Mr Jamal will be its first justice of colour.

The prime minister had come under pressure to fill the seat being vacated by Justice Rosalie Abella - stepping down after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75 – with a person of colour.

Mr Trudeau asked former prime minister Kim Campbell to lead the search effort.

Mr Jamal was born in 1967 to an Ismaili Muslim family in Kenya and was raised in a small town in England.

Eventually moving to Canada, he attended high school in Edmonton, Alberta, and converted to the Baha’i faith when he married.

He currently serves as a Court of Appeal justice in Ontario.

In addition to being a renowned jurist, Mr Jamal filled an important criterium that the Trudeau government has demanded of its Supreme Court judges: he is bilingual in both of Canada’s official languages, French and English.

“I know that Justice Jamal, with his exceptional legal and academic experience and dedication to serving others, will be a valuable asset to our country’s highest court,” the prime minister said in a press release.

Mr Jamal’s appointment, while historic, increases the gender imbalance on the Supreme Court, which now consists of three women and six men.

Before becoming a judge, Mr Jamal had a long and distinguished career in litigation and demonstrated a deep commitment to pro-bono work, the prime minister's statement said.

He appeared in 35 appeals before Canada’s highest court, and also taught constitutional law at McGill University in Montreal and administrative law at Osgood Hall Law in Toronto.