|The Right Honourable|
PC CC CStJ
|Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong|
Assumed office |
July 30, 2018
|Appointed by||Carrie Lam|
|17th Chief Justice of Canada|
January 7, 2000 – December 15, 2017
|Nominated by||Jean Chrétien|
|Appointed by||Adrienne Clarkson|
|Preceded by||Antonio Lamer|
|Succeeded by||Richard Wagner|
|Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada|
March 30, 1989 – January 7, 2000
|Nominated by||Brian Mulroney|
|Appointed by||Jeanne Sauvé|
|Preceded by||William McIntyre|
|Succeeded by||Louis LeBel|
|Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia|
|Appointed by||Jeanne Sauvé|
September 7, 1943
Pincher Creek, Alberta, Canada
|Children||Angus McLachlin (b. 1976)|
|Alma mater||University of Alberta|
Beverley McLachlin, PC CC CStJ (Chinese: 麥嘉琳法官, born September 7, 1943) is a Canadian jurist and author who served as the 17th Chief Justice of Canada from 2000 to 2017, the first woman to hold that position and the longest serving Chief Justice in Canadian history. In her role as Chief Justice, she also simultaneously served as a Deputy of the Governor General of Canada.
McLachlin retired December 15, 2017, nine months before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. Her successor as Chief Justice of Canada is Richard Wagner, who was nominated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017. Her successor as a Justice of the Court is Sheilah Martin, who was nominated by the Prime Minister through a new process that permitted "any Canadian lawyer or judge who fits a specified criteria" to apply.
In March 2018, McLachlin was nominated to become a non-permanent judge from other common law jurisdictions of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, the first Canadian jurist nominated to the post. The appointment was gazetted and came into effect July 30, 2018, for a three-year term.
Early life and family
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" of the Pentecostal Church. 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 practised 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, Angus (born 1976), from her first marriage to Roderick McLachlin, who took care of much of Angus's upbringing. Her first husband died of cancer in 1988, a few days after she was appointed chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court. In 1992 she married Frank McArdle, a lawyer and executive director of the Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association.
Career as a judge
In April 1981, McLachlin was appointed to the County Court of Vancouver. Just five months later, she was appointed 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 nominated by Brian Mulroney to be made a Puisne Justice to the Supreme Court of Canada on March 30, 1989. On the advice of Jean Chrétien, she was made Chief Justice of Canada on January 7, 2000.
When Governor General Adrienne Clarkson was hospitalized for a cardiac pacemaker operation on July 8, 2005, McLachlin performed the duties of the Governor General as the Administrator of Canada. In her role as Administrator, she gave royal assent to the Civil Marriage Act which legalized same-sex marriage nationally 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, on the Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute, and on 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 Honour by the Government of France in 2008. On December 15, 2006, she was appointed Commander of the Venerable Order of Saint John.
McLachlin has defined her function as one that requires conscious objectivity, which she describes as follows:
What you have to try to do as a judge, whether you're on charter issues or any other issue, is by an act of the imagination put yourself in the shoes of the different parties, and think about how it looks from their perspective, and really think about it, not just give it lip service ...
As a judge, and I've been a judge for a long time, I have always resolved to just try to judge the issues as honestly as I can, and not to think about things in too strategic a manner. My job is simply to listen to what the parties have to say, and to do my best to understand the position, the ramifications of deciding one way or the other, to think about what’s best for Canadian society on this particular problem that’s before us, and give it my best judgment after listening to, also, my eight other colleagues. So there's a consensual element there.
McLachlin has stated, "I think the court belongs to the Canadian people and it should reflect the Canadian people." In the opinion of an interviewer, this is "not only to convey an impression of balance, but to bring in perspectives that were so long absent from the judicial imagination. To her, judgment is not a coldly neutral evaluation of competing positions, robotically free of passion or perspective. It is an engaged, human act of imagination."
The Supreme Court, under McLachlin, ruled against the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper on several important issues, including prostitution, assisted suicide, mandatory minimum gun crime sentences, Senate reform, whether Taliban fighter Omar Khadr deserved an adult sentence, and whether Federal Court judge Marc Nadon could be elevated to the Supreme Court.
McLachlin surpassed Sir William Johnstone Ritchie as the longest-serving Chief Justice of Canada in history on September 22, 2013.
In 2018, McLachlin was appointed non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal, Hong Kong's supreme court. Her appointment was accompanied by the ones of Baroness Hale of Richmond also as non-permanent judge and Mr Justice Cheung as permanent judge at the paramount court of the city. In the same year, she published Full Disclosure, her first legal thriller novel.
McLachlin was nominated in March 2018 to become a non-permanent member of the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong. The Court appoints foreign judges, of which McLachlin is the first Canadian, from common-law jurisdictions outside of Hong Kong to sit as non-permanent members. The appointment has been approved by the Hong Kong Legislative Council, and the Chief Executive gazetted the appointment effective July 30, 2018.
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.
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".
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on February 6, 2015, that the prohibition on assisted suicide was unconstitutional and overturned its own prior decision on the subject from 1993, Rodriguez v British Columbia (AG). McLachlin wrote the dissent in the 1993 case and was the only Justice from that era remaining on the court in 2015.
Nadon Incident (2014)
In July 2013, during the consultation period prior to appointment for Marc Nadon, 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 Stephen Harper stated that he had refused a phone call from McLachlin on the Attorney General's advice. Harper's comments were criticized by the legal community and a complaint was forwarded to the International Commission of Jurists in Switzerland. The International Commission of Jurists concluded that Beverly McLachlin deserved an apology from Harper, but none had been given as of July 2014.
McLachlin charges Canada with cultural genocide (2015)
In May 2015, McLachlin was invited to speak at the Global Centre for Pluralism, and said that Canada attempted to commit "cultural genocide" against aboriginal peoples in what she called the worst stain on Canada's human-rights record. University of Regina academic Ken Coates was quick to support McLachlin, and said that she was "only stating what is clearly in the minds of judges, lawyers and aboriginal people across the country".
Others were far less sympathetic. Columnist Lysiane Gagnon called the comments "unacceptable" and "highly inflammatory" and suggested that McLachlin had opened herself up to accusations of prejudice. Gordon Gibson, another columnist, said the use of the word "genocide" was incendiary and disproportionate and that the Chief Justice's comments made her sound like a legislator.
Honorary Degrees and other awards
She 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. She is currently the Visitor of Massey College, an interdisciplinary graduate college for students of distinguished ability at the University of Toronto. She has been awarded with over 31 Honorary Degrees from various universities, which include:
|Ribbon bar of The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin|
- Order of Saint John – Commander
- 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal
- Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal
- Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
- Legion of Honour – Commandeur
- Full Disclosure. Novel. Simon & Schuster Canada, Toronto 2018
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- [dead link]
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 14, 2017. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
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- Supreme Court of Canada biography
- The Canadian Encyclopedia - Beverley McLachlin
- Fundamental Freedoms: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Charter of Rights website with video, audio and the Charter in over 20 languages
|Order of precedence|
as Former Prime Minister
| Order of Precedence of Canada
as Former Chief Justice
as Speaker of the Senate of Canada