Richard Wagner (judge)

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Richard Wagner
The Right Honourable Richard Wagner smiling.
Wagner in 2012
18th Chief Justice of Canada
Assumed office
December 18, 2017
Nominated byJustin Trudeau
Appointed byJulie Payette
Preceded byBeverley McLachlin
Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
In office
October 5, 2012 – December 18, 2017
Nominated byStephen Harper
Appointed byDavid Johnston
Preceded byMarie Deschamps
Succeeded bySheilah Martin
Puisne Justice of the Quebec Court of Appeal
In office
February 3, 2011 – October 5, 2012
Nominated byStephen Harper
Appointed byDavid Johnston
Preceded byLise Côté
Succeeded byDominique Bélanger
Personal details
Born (1957-04-02) April 2, 1957 (age 67)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
SpouseCatherine Mandeville
Alma materCollège Jean-de-Brébeuf (DEC)
University of Ottawa (BSocSc, LLL)

Richard Wagner PC (French pronunciation: [vɑɡnɛːʁ] vahg-NAIR;[2] born April 2, 1957) is a Canadian jurist serving as the 18th and current Chief Justice of Canada since 2017. He previously served as a puisne justice of the Quebec Court of Appeal (2011–2012) and of the Supreme Court of Canada (2012–2017). For several months in 2021, following Julie Payette's resignation as Canada's governor general, Wagner was the administrator of the government of Canada as well as chief justice.

Early life[edit]

Wagner was born in Montreal, Quebec, to a French Canadian Catholic family as the son of Gisèle (née Normandeau) and Claude Wagner, a former member of Parliament and senator.[3] He studied at the Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf in Montreal before receiving a bachelor of social science degree in political science from the University of Ottawa in 1978. He received his Licentiate in Law (LL.L.) – a Quebec Civil Law equivalent of the Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB) – from the same institution in 1979.[3]


Private practice and early judicial career[edit]

In 1980, Wagner was called to the Quebec Bar, and began practice at the Montreal law firm Lavery, de Billy (formerly Lavery, O'Brien and Lavery, Johnston, Clark, Carrière, Mason & Associés). His practice centred on real estate, commercial litigation and professional liability insurance.[3]

He was appointed to the Superior Court of Quebec for the district of Montreal on September 24, 2004. On February 3, 2011, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal of Quebec.

Supreme Court of Canada[edit]

On October 2, 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper nominated him to the Supreme Court of Canada to replace retiring Justice Marie Deschamps.[4] His appointment was confirmed on October 5, 2012.[5]

On December 3, 2012, a ceremony was held for Wagner's appointment in the Supreme Court of Canada courtroom. The event was attended by outgoing chief justice Beverley McLachlin, the federal minister of justice and attorney general, Rob Nicholson, and the Quebec deputy minister of justice, Nathalie G. Drouin.[6]

On December 12, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Wagner as Beverly McLachlin's successor as chief justice of Canada.[7][8]

Administrator of Canada[edit]

On January 23, 2021, Wagner became Administrator of the Government of Canada following Governor General Julie Payette's resignation in response to a workplace harassment investigation. By virtue of royal letters patent issued in 1947, the chief justice of Canada is the ex officio principal deputy to the governor general, and may act as governor general when the office is vacant.[9][10] Only justices of the Supreme Court of Canada are authorized to perform federal viceregal duties on an acting basis. He ceased to hold office as administrator on July 26, 2021, following Mary Simon's appointment as governor general.[11][10] Serving for six months, Wagner was the longest-serving administrator of Canada in history.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Wagner is a Roman Catholic.[13] Wagner's father Claude was also a jurist. His grandfather was a German Jewish immigrant originally from Bavaria. Wagner has two children who are also lawyers.[1]



Honorary degrees
Location Date School Degree Gave Commencement Address
 Ontario June 19, 2019 University of Ottawa Doctorate Yes[14]
 Ontario June 14, 2023 Law Society of Ontario Doctorate No

Memberships and fellowships[edit]

Country Date Organization Position
 United States American College of Trial Lawyers Honorary Fellow[15]
 Ireland The Honorable Society of King’s Inns Honorary Bencher[16]
 England The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple Honorary Bencher
 Canada Friends of the McGill Library Honorary Friend
 Canada Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters Honorary President

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b MacCharles, Tonda (December 12, 2017). "Justin Trudeau names Richard Wagner new Chief Justice of Canada". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on December 12, 2017. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  2. ^ "Richard Wagner sworn in as Supreme Court chief justice - YouTube". Archived from the original on January 28, 2021. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Quebec Court of Appeal. The Honourable Richard Wagner. Retrieved October 2, 2012. Archived May 17, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ CBC News (October 2, 2012). "Quebec judge Richard Wagner nominated to Supreme Court" Archived October 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  5. ^ The Canadian Press. "CBC News - MP questions 'introduce' Supreme Court nominee Wagner Montreal judge is Conservative government's 5th appointment". CBC News. Archived from the original on December 11, 2012. Retrieved October 5, 2012.
  6. ^ "Supreme Court welcomes Justice Wagner to bench". December 3, 2012. Archived from the original on December 4, 2012. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
  7. ^ "Prime Minister names the Honourable Richard Wagner as new Chief Justice of Canada". (Press release). PMO. December 12, 2017. Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  8. ^ "News Releases - SCC Cases (Lexum)". (Press release). December 12, 2017. Archived from the original on December 12, 2017. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  9. ^ Burke, Ashley (January 21, 2021). "Payette stepping down as governor general after blistering report on Rideau Hall work environment". CBC News. Archived from the original on January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Platt, Brian [@btaplatt] (January 25, 2021). "For clarity's sake, I asked PCO to confirm Payette is fully and completely out of the role and that CJ Richard Wagner has been sworn in as administrator. PCO confirms that's the case, says Wagner was sworn in on Saturday, Jan. 23." (Tweet). Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved June 14, 2021 – via Twitter.
  11. ^ Graham Slaughter (January 21, 2021). "Canada's top judge is now Governor General, but expert urges speedy replacement". CTVNEWS. Archived from the original on January 22, 2021. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  12. ^ [ Six months after former GG Payette's resignation, chief justice still juggling two jobs ]
  13. ^ "Richard Wagner". Canadian Who's Who 2014-2015. Toronto: Third Sector Publishing, 2015.
  14. ^ "WAGNER, Richard". Office of the President. Archived from the original on August 15, 2021. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  15. ^ "Honorary Fellows". Archived from the original on August 9, 2020. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  16. ^ "The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada". Supreme Court of Canada. January 2001. Retrieved April 26, 2023.
Order of precedence
Preceded byas Prime Minister Order of Precedence of Canada
as Chief Justice
Succeeded byas Former Governor General