Liberal interpretation of justice
Lawyers in red dresses badly need to be taken down a peg

Sun, February 19, 2006

In the last week of the federal election campaign, the ever more doleful Liberal media figured Tory Leader Stephen Harper had finally made a fatal mistake.

He had criticized the courts. In the mythology, which liberals have been diligently trying to establish, the courts are sacrosanct. One must not question the courts.

And Harper had.

The circumstances were these: If the Tories should happen to win a majority, a reporter asked, what protection did Canadians have against radical action by his party?

Three protections, replied Harper. Most of the Senate, the whole senior bureaucracy, and almost all the judges were Liberal appointees. It was by including the judges that Harper was deemed to have made his grave error. To suggest there could be a political bias in the appointment of Canadian judges is, well, unthinkable.

It's on occasions like this that I'm glad I subscribe to REALity, the bi-monthly publication of REAL Women of Canada.

In its January/February edition, they give a sampling of appointees to the courts. When Irwin Cotler was Liberal minister of justice, the following became judges:

  • Michael Brown, Cotler's executive assistant and policy adviser.
  • Yves de Montigny, Cotler's chief of staff.
  • Randall Echlin, legal counsel to the Ontario Liberal party.
  • Rosalie Abella, named to the Supreme Court of Canada, wife of Cotler's close friend Irving Abella
  • Marsha Erb, Alberta Liberal fundraiser and close friend of Alberta Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan
  • John J. Gill, co-chair of the 2004 Alberta federal Liberal campaign
  • Vital Ouellette, unsuccessful Liberal candidate in the 1997 and 2000 provincial elections.
  • Bryan Mahoney, Liberal candidate twice defeated by Calgary Tory Myron Thompson.
  • Edmond Blanchard, former Liberal minister of finance in New Brunswick.
These are among the appointees whose dispassionate political neutrality Harper was assailed for having questioned.

However, REALity goes beyond this.

It quotes at length the description of Canadian judges given by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in a lecture delivered last November in New Zealand.

When a person is appointed to the bench, explained our chief justice, he or she acquires a unique wisdom and knowledge conferring an ability to determine with certainty how Canadians must live.

Thus the judge must not feel bound by the precise words of the Charter.

Even in the face of a hostile public opinion, the judge must establish "norms" which are "essential to the nation's history, identity, values, and legal system."

The judge is able to discern these "norms," she continued, and confer on them the force of law where necessary.

Only judges know how to accurately interpret these unwritten concepts,

REALity said it begged to differ.

"Judges in Canada are appointed because they or their law firms have paid large sums of money to the party in power, or have personally worked diligently for the party in power," said the magazine.

The intriguing, in fact dangerous possibility, however, is Chief Justice McLachlin actually believes this stuff.

Perhaps she sincerely thinks when a lawyer is appointed to the bench, a new insight -- what Christians call "grace"-- somehow descends upon the appointee.

This person is no longer just a lawyer who backed the right party.

He is now a seer, an oracle, a clairvoyant with new powers and insights into the soul of the nation.

One might understandably suspect, of course, our chief justice has, so to speak, slipped her moorings.

You'd hesitate to say, gone crackpot.

But the odd thing is otherwise sane people, some in the media, support her in this.

They actually think this "gift of prophecy," or whatever you want to call it, has been bestowed upon our judges.

And there's a reason.

Every religion must have some kind of final, absolute, unimpeachable authority.

Christians find it in the Bible, or in the traditions of the church, or in both.

Official Canada has no religion any more, but it still requires this unassailable final voice, and must therefore endow the Supreme Court with this indispensable sanctity.

Frankly I can't buy it. All I can see in the Supreme Court are nine lawyers in red dresses, who need very badly to be taken down a peg.

Let's hope -- dare I say pray? -- this will happen.