Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin #
My first introduction to former Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin were her comments at the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) annual meeting in Saskatoon in Aug 18, 2013. The meeting claimed the most pressing challenge facing the administration of justice in this country was ensuring that Canadians are able to access the system, calling for more federal funding for civil legal aid; not any internal issues.
Later, I found several puff interviews posted on the CBC website. It’s amazing what the fear of losing funding can do to tame a gelded public broadcaster. As a Judge she came across as personable, warm and intelligent.
I followed her career with personal interest from then.
After lodging a deeply disturbing complaint to the CJC. all I received in March 2015, was a short letter to the Judge concerned, thanking her profusely for her letters defending her unsubstantiated determinations.
Despite the fact that:
“The Canadian Judicial Council is mandated to review “any complaint or allegation” against a superior court judge and respond to all complainants.”
I have never received a meaningful response to my complaint. I do feel aggrieved. The CJC defiantly flicks the bird at our parliamentary representatives.
I recall sending Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, many emails respectfully pleading with her for a response. I am just so happy now, I didn’t hold my breath!
Most liberal countries resemble an oligarchy, rather than a democracy. In an illusory democracy, our protests fall on deaf ears. Because of its elevated status, obvious failures of the judiciary are not widely acknowledged or corrected.
My most difficult quandary is to determine which of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes she resembles – Macbeth or Julius Caesar. All three begin strongly with illustrous, stellar promise, but succumb to an insatiable lust for power and dominance.
As Abraham Lincoln said:
“If you want to test someone’s character; give them power.”
I believe democracy fails, when authorities fail that character test. Democracy’s foundational values assume we are all equal and that it favors the many instead of the few.
Correspondence to Beverley McLachlin #
An abridged version:
November, 14th 2017 The Honourable Beverly McLachlin
With due respect, I feel my submissions to the CJC have all been treated with callous disregard.
As a result, my faith in the Canadian Justice system is being severely tested
High handed decision making ultimately diminishes our faith, confidence and trust in officialdom, undermining the very credibility, authority and legitimacy of the entire system by a denial of mutual respect.
Other cases have also caused me deep concern about the independence and integrity of Manitoba’s Queen’s Bench.
The Hoffman Heinrichs was case adjudicated by Justice Greenberg in 2012. It appears to have been determined by an ulterior non-factual agenda.
Not only did the six day court case find against all the solid evidence, the subsequent Appeal compounded the miscarriage of justice with Ozymandian claims based on four factually unfounded premises. That is quite an achievement!
To appropriate Oscar Wilde, to get one finding wrong may be unfortunate, two - carless, three – negligent, but all four appears perverse.
Yet all attempts to have these decisions held to account failed. The Canadian Judicial Council displays its Kafkaesque power by simply ignoring my inherent rights as a Canadian citizen and taxpayer to a meaningful response.
Norman Sabourin’s most practiced skill appears to be an alacrity in closing files.
File: 14-0393 does need further attention, lest it prove damaging to your otherwise exemplary legacy.
It would be a shame for Beverly McLachlin to have to suffer with Macbeth’s;
my way of life
Is fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf;
And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but, in their stead,
Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour,..
Before you retire could you please reconsider re-opening File: 14-0393
I would appreciate a personal response with cogent reasons if not.
Charles Klassen 885/22 Jane Bell Lane, Melbourne, Vic. 3000 Australia
The Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
The Honourable Jody Wilson -Raybould
The Honourable Justice Minister Heather Stefanson
One could expect the courtesy of a reply - but only if you are politically naive.
All government authorities are charged with the collective responsibility of maintaining the integrity, credibility and authority of the Justice System.
We need to reclaim our inherent, inalienable, and inviolable right to an equitable and honourable court system conducted with procedural fairness to regain the trust of the people.
The modern idea of a national conscience is tied to our self - image. Canada reigns supreme in many areas, however this image is fragile and in danger by any and all self-serving institutions who value their own interests above that of the public interest. Each nation faces an urgent need for the government of the day to demonstrate the will and spine to corral and rein in its irresponsible bureaucrats. Tyranny lurks just under the veneer of decency.
As Jeannie Suk Gersen writes; rights can unfold and expand, however, they can also retract and constrict in breathtaking ways, pursuing a particular strain of logic one case at a time.
There appears a phenomenon that some Judges have become so removed from their formative roots that they are wholly innocent of any knowledge of what Justice is all about.
Do Judicial officials have to abide by the laws of parliament? In Canada, obviously not.
Legally speaking, requiring public servants to comply with statutary laws, sounds like a fairly modest exercise of that authority.
Beverley McLachlin’s failure to respond represents just one more instance of abject systemic failures of accountability. It’s a stark illustration of how power works in Canada. All attempts, through at least five Ministers of Justice, the Premier and the Prime Minister, failed to hold anyone to account.
She embodies in stark and indefensible terms, incremental unentitled privilege in high office. True, sapient, leadership is about earning respect; not wielding unchecked authority.
Powerful and sensitive weapons need to be handled with extreme care if they are not to harm the user as well as the intended victim. Judicial prerogatives are powerful and sensitive weapons.
In any democratic system, the courts must always be the trusted ultimate arbiters, which is why they hold such an eminent position in society. Once they betray that trust, they shred their own authority, respect and legitimacy.
Trust detriment, through poor decision making reflects organisational cultures that do not focus on public interests. Such cultures promote short-term, small time power assertions over longer-term public faith. This contributes to a lack of public confidence and trust in the system.
How do we force our leaders to lead and shoulder the responsibility that comes with high office?
No wonder Transparency International continues to downgrade Canada’s position on its global index to highlight the need for countries to improve checks and balances through strong integrity institutions and to uphold people’s rights to hold those in power to account.
Dean Rostow’s conception of the judge’s role. The law “is the central institution of a changing society”; “the proponent and protector of values which are premises, goals, needs, and ambitions of our culture, as they have been expressed in our living constitution.”
However, in order for the courts to be respected, they are instituted to protect us from dangerous people for the common good and to resolve family disputes fairly and equitably to avoid future strife. In this they appear to be manifestly and demonstrably failing. Brendan Behan claimed: “There is no situation so bad, the intervention of the law cannot make it worse”
Prolonged disasters occur in authoritarian systems that lack institutional capacities to self-correct.
In a free society any person is entitled to criticise the conduct of the courts or of a judge. The courts cannot be and are not immune from criticism which may extend to robust observations of a particular decision or how it was determined.
Linda Greenhouse of the New York Review questions how should we think about the Court today—its extraordinary power, the agenda of its new conservative supermajority, its place in a democracy suddenly turned fragile?
Canada previously enjoyed a high reputational jurisdictional status, due in part, to the illustrious career of Brian Dickson.
However, wrong doing by authorities must be called out for what they are a contempt of democracy. All Public Servants are there to serve the public; not flaunt their awesome bulwark power.
McLachlin could listen to 17th century British historian, Thomas Fuller, whose commentary ‘Be ye ever so high, the law is above you’
Junot Diaz noted: “Eventually the past finds you. As for so many in positions of power, the moment to reckon with the consequences of past behaviour eventually arrives”.
Leaders who suffer from ADD - attention deprivation disorder, have good reason to attempt to justify their legacies, considering the amount of compromises they make to gain and maintain power. Some attempt to curate their baneful reputations by writing books or opinion pieces for the media. It appears a lot of effort is being expended on polishing a burnished image.
For The Toronto Globe and Mail, recently to risk its credibility and reputation, featuring a condescending, smug complacent opinion piece from the former Chief Justice of Canada, expressing her negative opinion of the protestors, appears contemptuous of public expression, further endangering the chance of objective court cases.
But McLachlin has her cheer leaders from Canada’s “Deep State”; provincial power brokers such as “the Laurentian elite”, the well-connected upper-middle classes from Toronto up the St Lawrence River to Montreal and Quebec, who beneath the outward appearance of legitimate government and accountable officials, often lurk hidden agendas, institutions seeking to seize control of the nation for their own ends. Unfettered by legal norms and unworried by public opinion, they answer to no one.
John Ralston Saul described her as “the most beautiful disguise for a steel trap mind that he’d ever seen."
Could I respectfully suggest that during her stouches with Harper, that steel trap mind snapped shut, and no one has be able to prise it open since?
Adrienne Clarkson reveals that she is the only Chief Justice who knows how to deliver a calf in Pincher Creek - impressive, but hardly the attributes required of a Chief Justice to keep a phalanx of precious prickly judges, protective of their liberal discretionary privilege in line. Bias, perceptions of bias, judges veering from orthodox legal method, ignoring the fundamental, inherent guiding principles in all judicial arbitrating; public office demands public trust for the public good. Just because McLachlin was a brilliant lawyer and Judge, was she an effective Chief Justice?
For the self funded Innocence Canada to expose more than ninety wrongful convictions under McLachlin’s watch, fails to impress. It remains ineluctable evidence of judicial failure. How many more perverse court cases were ignored?
The time honoured phrase that “Justice should be not only be done but seen to be done” needs constant repetition to remind Judges to discharge their duty to the community by fair and honourable means.
The CJC has a primary and fundamental duty to the profession and ethical responsibility to the community, to foster our respect for justice.
It remains my considered contention that under McLachlin’s rule, revealing patterns visible only in the long view, serious damage to the public’s perception of our justice system prevailed. Clearly not all humans were, in MacLachlin’s view, entitled to basic rights.
Judicial incompetence is more often a product of personality characteristics than of intellectual shortcomings. A test of character is to give someone POWER. This must, as they say in court, go to character. Or lack thereof.
The authoritarian structure of the judicial bubble culture makes it prone to particular types of personality characteristics; a need for collegial approval, being deaf to unwelcome information, an inclination to internal codes of acceptable behaviour, an insatiable desire for peer admiration, an equally devouring urge for unaccountable power and positions of dominance. You could say much the same for most professions. The higher-ups rarely checked judicial malpractice. Instead, over and again, they gave it the full force of law—sustaining more injustice still.
Public servants fail us when they shamelessly shrug off their vowed oaths of office. The good guys must stand up to the baddies. In this, I believe McLachlin spectacularly failed the citizens of Canada. But then we are increasingly living in an “age of impunity”
Why are Canadians so apathetic about the denial of Justice to vulnerable people due to institutional failings? Why are our politicians so unambitious? Why does true Justice have to be self-funded?
The growing public awareness of declining judicial standards, leaves a deepening stain on Canada’s image around the world.
Margaret Atwood is conscious of the infinite slipperiness of historical truth, the flawed and partial and frequently misleading nature of what the world calls “evidence.” Atwood advocates that all of us have a voice to be used to call out injustices. Atwood advocates that all of us have a voice to be used to call out injustices.
Just because something is, doesn’t mean it should always be.
What’s indefensible is a political class that believes nothing better is possible — a class that benefits from enmity without realizing that the damage from it is corrosive, and possibly irreversible. Michael Ignatieff, a former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Has Canada given up living up to its ideals?
We need leaders willing to act decisively with decency and integrity — and in the absence of entitlement.
Clarkson further contends that McLachlin is known to everyone in Pincer Creek, indicating she is one of us.
She may have been, but as Brutus so ably points out regarding Caesar:
The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins
Remorse from power:
………………….But ‘tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.
Perhaps more apt is the sentiment echoed by Isabella in Measure for Measure:
‘Oh it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.’
A more prosaic version goes: “The working class can kiss my a-s, I’ve got a government job at last.”
That’s what insatiable power can do to us; make us hapless pawns, manipulated by egomaniacal narcissistic seduction; a primordial, parasitic power some find difficult to resist. All institutions gravitate to dystrophy, without strong moral leadership.
Shakespeare obviously suffered an obsessive compulsive condition as most of his plays are fixated on the folly of pompous pretentions of vaunted powermongers. Without the benefit of modern sedation, he just couldn’t stop ranting.
Hamlet too, rails against; “The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the law’s delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, …
We, underlings, are dispensable and just expected to patiently and fawningly bow and scrap and stoically accept our miserable unworthy lot.
Shakespeare’s patterns of advocacy of Good Governance; what constituted good order, and the consequences of bad leadership, was illustrated by articulate dialogue and good theatre. Good leaders, like Henry V, display quiet self assurance, firm decisive and resolute action, balanced by humility. Canada’s equivalents were undoubtedly, Lester B. Pearson and Brian Dickson.
Has Beverley McLachlin, in a desperate Faustian pact, agreed to serve the CCP as a Court of Appeals judge in Hong Kong, giving it the imprimatur of respectability, tacitly legitimising Xi Jinping’s crushing of democracy?
The Australian representative, NSW’s former Chief Justice, Jim Spigelman, left Hong Kong after one year. He claimed “What matters most are the facts”, recognising that the public want a legal system “dedicated to the search for truth”.
No wonder she doesn’t support protesters.
Protesters only risk their lives when all other forms of appeals fail. Without protesters, Canada would still be a colonial outpost of Britain, instead of replicating America.