The Government of Canada has never had a pure merit system -- ever. People have gotten jobs above their merit based on any number of criteria: balancing Lower Canada vs Upper Canada, Rural vs Urban, East vs West, favoritism for certain social clubs, favoritism for people that went to the "right schools", a bias for people who have the right accent, people with family connections, people who played hockey, golf or were drinking buddies with the right patron.
However, the current state of the Supreme Court seems to be a bit of a perfect storm. Expectations have been set that the next judge will be bilingual, from Atlantic Canada, be aboriginal, and be a highly competent jurist. Promises have been made, and somebody will be disappointed.