MacKay defends controversial remarks about women judges

Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay is defending comments he made last week about why so few women are appointed as judges in Canada.

MacKay was responding to a Toronto Star report Wednesday about an Ontario Bar Association meeting at which he was asked about the lack of women and visible minorities on federally appointed court benches.

MacKay answered the question by saying that women don't apply to be judges because they fear the job will take them away from their children _ and that children need their mothers more than their fathers, the Star report said.

Rather than back away from the comments Thursday, MacKay reinforced them.

"At early childhood, there's no question I think that women have a greater bond with their children,'' he said.

He went on to say that Canada needs more women to apply for judicial appointments, but then walked away from reporters who asked him about the discrepancy.

As of June 1, 24 of the 81 federally appointed judges in Canada were women — just shy of 30 per cent.

Some of MacKay's Conservative colleagues appeared uncomfortable with his remarks.

Calgary MP Michelle Rempel said parliamentarians should celebrate women, no matter their career choices — including staying at home.

Ontario MP Mike Wallace, who chairs the justice committee, refused to comment on the matter, saying it's up to MacKay to defend his own statements.

And Quebec MP Maxime Bernier laughed off MacKay's comments, but was quick to point out that he has a "special bond'' with his daughters.

Several men and women who were on hand for the meeting with MacKay described the minister's remarks to the Star as "disappointing,'' "frustrating'' and "offensive.''

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