Embroiled in controversy for days after appointing one of his friends as a judge, Minister of Justice Simon Jolin-Barrette says he is open to changing the rules.

In a press scrum Sunday morning at the CAQ convention in Sherbrooke, Jolin-Barrette said that if he had to do it again, he would declare his conflict of interest to the council of ministers, which he did not do when he appointed his friend Charles-Olivier Gosselin as a judge for the Court of Quebec in early May.

There is currently no requirement for the minister to declare his conflict of interest. But Jolin-Barrette said he is prepared to amend the current regulation to compel the minister to disclose any conflict of interest before making a judicial appointment.

"Should the regulation be amended to provide for this? I'm open to amending the regulations to add a provision like this to ensure things are clear," said Jolin-Barrette.

Recall that it is an independent committee that proposes a list of up to three names to the minister after a notice of nomination. The minister then proposes a candidate to the council of ministers, which ratifies the choice.

The minister also had to justify cancelling five calls for judicial nominations since 2020.

He said it was in the "interest of justice," as the regulation states, to issue a second notice of candidacy for these positions.

Premier François Legault was keen to defend his minister for his decisions.

"I don't see the minister's job as someone who stamps the decision every time. He can assess these people as not being ideal for the position."

A second call for candidates in Val-d'Or and Sept-Îles has actually caused discontent in judicial circles, according to a La Presse report.

Jolin-Barrette said he understood that people in the North Shore were disappointed by the appointment of a judge from Monteregie and not from the judicial district of Mingan.

However, he said the judge was obliged to settle in the district and not just stay there intermittently.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 14, 2023.