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Justice minister's wife comes to his defence over headlines about female judges

Peter MacKay arrives with Nazanin Afshin-Jam for the swearing in of the federal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. Justice Minister Peter MacKay's wife is making a spirited defence of her husband over comments recently attributed to him about female judges. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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Peter MacKay arrives with Nazanin Afshin-Jam for the swearing in of the federal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. Justice Minister Peter MacKay's wife is making a spirited defence of her husband over comments recently attributed to him about female judges. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA - Justice Minister Peter MacKay's wife is making a spirited defence of her husband over comments recently attributed to him about female judges.

In a letter to the Globe and Mail, Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay lashes out at both the media and the group of lawyers who attended a session in which MacKay reportedly said women were leery about becoming judges.

The Toronto Star reported that MacKay said women were afraid of being sent to work as judges on the circuit courts.

The report generated widespread criticism including from the justice ministers of both Ontario and Quebec.

His wife said MacKay's comments have been misrepresented in the media, which she likened to a "24-hour news cycle, National Enquirer-TMZ mentality."

She writes that organizers of the private meeting of lawyers have turned down her husband's request to release the audio recording of his comments to lay the matter to rest.

"Instead, they run to the anti-Conservative media with hearsay and, of course, he is savaged by his accusers, political opponents and press," Afshin-Jam MacKay writes in a response to an open letter on the subject by Globe columnist Leah McLaren.

Afshin-Jam MacKay goes on to explain that her husband made a passing reference in the speech of the bond she has with the couple's infant son and contends that reference was tied with the reference of fewer women applying for judicial positions and misrepresented.

"Ironically he is presumed guilty without any evidence, only hearsay," she writes.

Eyebrows were also raised over emails MacKay sent to staff marking Mother's Day and Father's Day.

The Mother's Day email salutes moms for juggling two full-time jobs — home and work, while the Father's Day message was quite different, making no mention of any household duties, but saying the men were "shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders."

Both emails were obtained by The Canadian Press.

In her letter to the Globe, Afshin-Jam MacKay notes that most of the senior officials in her husband's office are women and they approved the messages, which she said were written by female staffers in the Justice Department.

On Wednesday, Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee accused MacKay of making "deplorable" comments and suggested he was out of touch with the times.

Ontario's Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur also took issue with the suggestion women weren't applying for judgeships.

MacKay didn't deny the Toronto Star's portrayal of the comments regarding judges comments, but posted on Facebook that he has been trying to encourage more women to seek a career on the bench.

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