Beverley McLachlin

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The Right Honourable
Beverley McLachlin
PC CStJ
Beverley McLachlin (crop).jpg
17th Chief Justice of Canada
Incumbent
Assumed office
7 January 2000
Nominated by Jean Chrétien
Appointed by Adrienne Clarkson
Preceded by Antonio Lamer
65th Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
In office
30 March 1989 – 7 January 2000
Nominated by Brian Mulroney
Preceded by William McIntyre
Succeeded by Louis LeBel
Personal details
Born Beverley Gietz
(1943-09-07) September 7, 1943 (age 71)
Pincher Creek, Alberta
Spouse(s) Roderick McLachlin (d. 1988)
Frank McArdle
(m. 1992–present)
Alma mater University of Alberta
Profession Lawyer

Beverley McLachlin, PC (born 7 September 1943) is the 17th and current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the first woman to hold this position, and the longest serving Chief Justice in Canadian history. In her role as Chief Justice, she also serves as a Deputy of the Governor General of Canada.

Early life[edit]

McLachlin was born Beverley Gietz in Pincher Creek, Alberta, the eldest child of Eleanora Marian (née Kruschell) and Ernest Gietz. Her parents, who were of German descent, were "fundamentalist Christians".[1][2] She received a B.A. and an M.A. in philosophy and an LL.B. degree (winning the gold medal as top student and serving as Editor-in-Chief of the Alberta Law Review) from the University of Alberta. She was called to the Bar of Alberta in 1969 and to the Bar of British Columbia in 1971. She practiced law from 1969 until 1975. From 1974 to 1981, she was an Associate Professor and Professor with tenure at the University of British Columbia.

She has one son from her first marriage to Roderick McLachlin. Her first husband died in 1988 and she remarried in 1992 to Frank McArdle.

Career as a judge[edit]

In 1981, she was appointed to the County Court of Vancouver and then to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In 1985 she was appointed to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, three years later in 1988 she was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. She was appointed as a Puisne Justice to the Supreme Court of Canada on 30 March 1989 and was made Chief Justice of Canada on 7 January 2000.

Upon being sworn into the Supreme Court of Canada, she also became a Deputy of the Governor General of Canada together with the other justices of the Supreme Court.

When Governor General Adrienne Clarkson was hospitalized for a cardiac pacemaker operation on 8 July 2005, Chief Justice McLachlin served as the Deputy of the Governor General of Canada and performed the duties of the Governor General, including giving royal assent to the Civil Marriage Act, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada. She relinquished that task when the Governor General returned to good health in late July.

She is the Chairperson of the Canadian Judicial Council, the Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute, and the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada. She is a Member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. She was made a Commander of the Legion of Honor by the Government of France in 2008.[3][4] On 15 December 2006 she was appointed Commander of the Venerable Order of Saint John.[5]

She has been awarded with over 21 honorary Doctor of Laws degrees and is the Honorary Patron of the Institute of Parliamentary and Political Law. She has also been awarded the Yes She Can Award from Balmoral Hall School in 2005 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Ribbon bar of The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin

Judgments[edit]

During her early years on the Supreme Court, she was characterized as a judge with libertarian leaning after her dissent in R. v. Keegstra, finding that the hate-speech criminal offences were unconstitutional, and her judgment in R. v. Zundel where she struck down the criminal offence of spreading false news. This was also seen to an extent in her decision of R. v. Sharpe where she upheld the child pornography criminal provisions, but limited it by excluding imaginative works that are for private use. During this, she also ruled that the laws should apply to fictional depictions, declaring that 'person' would include fictional people as well as real people.

Interpreting "person" in accordance with Parliament's purpose of criminalizing possession of material that poses a reasoned risk of harm to children, it seems that it should include visual works of the imagination as well as depictions of actual people. Notwithstanding the fact that 'person' in the charging section and in s. 163.1(1)(b) refers to a flesh-and-blood person, I conclude that "person" in s. 163.1(1)(a) includes both actual and imaginary human beings.

[6]

Among her more controversial decisions was her ruling in R. v. Seaboyer, where she struck down the rape shield law because it violated the right to a fair trial of those accused of sexual assault.

McLachlin has tried to forge additional consensus in the Court's decisions, often writing controversial decisions herself to forge that consensus. In doing so, she is widely recognized for "still writing lots of judgments in her own clear style."[7]

Criticism[edit]

In July 2013, during the consultation period prior to appointment, Chief Justice McLachlin contacted justice minister Peter MacKay and the Prime Minister's Office regarding the eligibility of Marc Nadon for a Quebec seat on the Supreme Court. Prime Minister Harper claimed that he had refused a phone call from McLachlin, which he considered inappropriate, on MacKay's advice. Harper's comments were widely criticized by the legal community and a complaint was forwarded to the International Commission of Jurists in Switzerland.[8][9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Order of precedence
Preceded by
Stephen Harper
as Prime Minister
Order of Precedence of Canada
as Chief Justice
Succeeded by
Edward Schreyer
as Former Governor General