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Beverley McLachlin
McLachlin in 2007
McLachlin in 2007
17th Chief Justice of Canada
In office
January 7, 2000 – December 15, 2017
Nominated by Jean Chrétien
Appointed by Adrienne Clarkson
Preceded by Antonio Lamer
Succeeded by Richard Wagner
Non-Permanent Judge of the
Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong
Assumed office
July 30, 2018
Appointed by Carrie Lam
Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
In office
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
In office
1988–1990
Appointed by Jeanne Sauvé
Personal details
Born
Beverley Gietz

(1943-09-07) September 7, 1943 (age 80)
Pincher Creek, Alberta, Canada
Citizenship Canadian
Spouses
Roderick McLachlin
(m. 1967; died 1988)
Frank McArdle
(m. 1992)
Children Angus McLachlin (b. 1976)
Alma mater University of Alberta (BA, MA, LLB)
Profession Judge
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese 麦嘉琳

Beverley Marian McLachlin PC CC (born September 7, 1943) is a Canadian jurist and author who served as the 17th chief justice of Canada from 2000 to 2017. She is the longest-serving chief justice in Canadian history and the first woman to hold the position.

In July 2018, McLachlin began a three-year term as a non-permanent judge on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, the first Canadian jurist nominated to the post. She was re-appointed for a second three-year term in 2021. She has announced that she will retire from the court when her term ends on July 29, 2024.

Early life and education

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 as well as an LL.B. degree (winning the gold medal as top student, and serving as notes editor 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. McLachlin practised law from 1969 until 1975. From 1974 to 1981, she was a professor at the University of British Columbia.

McLachlin has one son, Angus (born 1976), from her first marriage to Roderick McLachlin, who took care of much of Angus's upbringing. Roderick McLachlin died of cancer in 1988, a few days after she was appointed chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court. In 1992, McLachlin married Frank McArdle, a lawyer and the executive director of the Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association.

Judicial career

Canada

In April 1981, McLachlin was appointed to the County Court of Vancouver. Five months later, in September 1981, she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In December 1985, McLachlin was appointed to the British Columbia Court of Appeal. In September 1988, McLachlin 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, McLachlin was appointed the chief justice of Canada on January 7, 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 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.

While she was Chief Justice, McLachlin chaired the Canadian Judicial Council. She is also 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. McLachlin was made a commander of the Legion of Honour by the government of France in 2008. On December 15, 2006, she was appointed a commander of the Venerable Order of Saint John.

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.

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 supported 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 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.

McLachlin retired from the Supreme Court on 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 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau through a new process for judicial appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada that permitted, "any Canadian lawyer or judge who fits a specified criteria" to apply.

Hong Kong

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 from common-law jurisdictions outside of Hong Kong, of which McLachlin is the first Canadian, to sit as non-permanent members of the court. Her three-year appointment was approved by the Hong Kong Legislative Council, and the chief executive gazetted the appointment effective July 30, 2018. McLachlin's appointment was accompanied by those of Brenda Hale, also as non-permanent judge, and Andrew Cheung, as permanent judge, at the court. She was reappointed to the court in 2021 for a second three-year term.

Her service on the court has been criticized amidst the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests and imposition of the National Security Law, which is seen by Western observers as threatening civil liberties in the city. As a Court of Final Appeal judge, McLachlin would be required to uphold the law in appellate judgements. A motion at the Law Society of Ontario to condemn her appointment was defeated 28–17 in February 2021. In June 2022, she announced her decision to remain on the court which she believes to still be independent. McLachlin has stated her intention to retire once her term in Hong Kong expires in July 2024.

Other courts

McLachlin also serves as an international judge on the Singapore International Commercial Court.

Judicial philosophy

McLachlin has defined the judicial function as one that requires conscious objectivity, which she has described 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.

McLachlin has argued that courts may be justified in changing the law where such a change would accord with changes in society's values. She regards Edwards v Canada (Attorney General), in which the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council found that women were entitled to sit in the Senate of Canada, as a paradigm case in Canadian law. She has stated "courts are the ultimate guardians of the rights of society, in our system of government." She has also stated, "I think the court belongs to the Canadian people and it should reflect the Canadian people."

McLachlin has defended the view that "legal certainty"—the notion that there is one correct answer to a legal question, which judges can discover with diligence—is a "myth".

Mahmud Jamal, now a puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, has argued that McLachlin's jurisprudence on the law of federalism is consistent with her "self-described judicial philosophy", namely that judges are to be "scrupulously non-partisan and impartial".

Writing

In 2018, McLachlin published a legal thriller novel titled Full Disclosure. Her memoir Truth Be Told: My Journey Through Life and the Law, was published in 2019. It won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing in 2020. McLachlin's second novel, Denial, was published in 2021 by Simon & Schuster.

Honours and awards

McLachlin is the honorary patron of the Institute of Parliamentary and Political Law. From 2016 to 2020, she was a college visitor at Massey College. In 2017, she was elected Visitor of Queens' College, Cambridge. She has been awarded with over 31 honorary degrees from various universities, which include:

Honorary degrees
Location Date School Degree
 British Columbia 27 September 1990 University of British Columbia Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Alberta 1991 University of Alberta Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Ontario June 1995 University of Toronto Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Ontario Spring 1999 York University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Ontario 2000 Law Society of Upper Canada Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 British Columbia 2000 Simon Fraser University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Alberta 2000 University of Calgary
 Ontario 8 June 2000 Brock University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 British Columbia November 2000 University of Victoria Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Alberta Spring 2001 University of Lethbridge Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Nova Scotia 2002 Mount Saint Vincent University Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)
 Prince Edward Island 2002 University of Prince Edward Island Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Quebec 2003 Université de Montréal Doctorate
 Nova Scotia 2004 Dalhousie University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
United Kingdom Northern Ireland 2004 Queen's University Belfast Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Manitoba 27 May 2004 University of Manitoba Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Ontario 14 November 2004 Carleton University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Maine 7 May 2005 University of Maine at Fort Kent Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)
 Philippines 2006 Ateneo de Manila University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Ontario 18 June 2010 University of Windsor Doctor of Civil Law (DCL)
 Ontario 2010 Ryerson University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Nova Scotia 2010 Cape Breton University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Ontario 2011 Queen's University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Quebec June 2011 Concordia University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Ontario 26 October 2012 University of Western Ontario Doctor of Civil Law (DCL)
 Ontario 2012 Lakehead University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Scotland 2014 University of Edinburgh Doctorate
 Quebec 2015 Bishop's University Doctor of Civil Law (DCL)
 Ontario 31 May 2016 Laurentian University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Quebec 1 June 2016 McGill University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Alberta 28 April 2017 Lethbridge College Bachelor of Applied Arts
 Newfoundland and Labrador 19 October 2017 Memorial University of Newfoundland Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Ontario 2019 University of Ontario Institute of Technology Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)

Memberships and fellowships

Country Date Organisation Position
 Canada March 2011 Royal Heraldry Society of Canada Vice Patron
 United States of America American College of Trial Lawyers Honorary Fellow


See also

  • List of Supreme Court of Canada cases (McLachlin Court)

Selected publications

Articles

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