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Beverley McLachlin

Beverley McLachlin
17th Chief Justice of Canada
Assumed office
7 January 2000
Nominated by Jean Chrétien
Appointed by Adrienne Clarkson
Preceded by Antonio Lamer
65th Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
In office
30 March 1989 – 7 January 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
Appointed by Jeanne Sauvé
Personal details
Born Beverley Gietz
(1943-09-07) 7 September 1943
Pincher Creek, Alberta
  • Roderick McLachlin (m. 1967; d. 1988)
  • Frank McArdle (m. 1992)
Alma mater University of Alberta
Profession Lawyer

Beverley McLachlin, PC (born 7 September 1943) is the 17th and current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the first woman to hold this position, and the longest serving Chief Justice in Canadian history. In her role as Chief Justice, she also serves as a Deputy of the Governor General of Canada.


  • Early life and family 1
  • Career as a judge 2
  • Honorary Degrees and other awards 3
  • Judgments 4
  • Controversies 5
    • Nadon Incident (2014) 5.1
    • McLachlin charges Canada with cultural genocide (2015) 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

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"[1][2] of the Pentecostal Church.[3] 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 practiced 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 from her first marriage to Roderick McLachlin, who took care of much of Angus' upbringing.[3] Her first husband died of cancer in 1988, a few days after she was appointed chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court.[3] In 1992 she married Frank McArdle, a lawyer and executive director of the Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association.[3]

Career as a judge

In 1980, she was appointed to the County Court of Vancouver and then 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 appointed by Brian Mulroney as a Puisne Justice to the Supreme Court of Canada on 30 March 1989,[3] and was made Chief Justice of Canada on 7 January 2000 by Jean Chretien.

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 8 July 2005, Chief Justice McLachlin served as the Deputy of the Governor General of Canada and performed the duties of the Governor General as the Administrator of Canada.[4] In her role as Administrator, she gave royal assent to the Civil Marriage Act, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada.[4] 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.[5][6] On 15 December 2006 she was appointed Commander of the Venerable Order of Saint John.[7]

McLachlin has defined her function as one that requires conscious objectivity, which she describes as follows:[3]

McLachlin has stated that "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."[3]

McLachlin surpassed Sir William Johnstone Ritchie as the longest-serving Chief Justice in Canadian history on September 22, 2013.

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 has been awarded with over 31 Honorary Degrees from various universities, which include:

Honorary Degrees
Country Date School Degree
 British Columbia 1990 University of British Columbia Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [8][9]
 Alberta 1991 University of Alberta Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [10]
 Ontario June 1995 University of Toronto Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [11]
 Ontario Spring 1999 York University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [12]
 Ontario 2000 Law Society of Upper Canada Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [13]
 British Columbia 2000 Simon Fraser University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [14]
 Alberta 2000 University of Calgary [15]
 Ontario 2000 University of Ottawa Doctor of the University (D.Univ) [16] [17]
 Ontario 8 June 2000 Brock University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [18]
 British Columbia November 2000 University of Victoria Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [19]
 Alberta Spring 2001 University of Lethbridge Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [20]
 Nova Scotia 2002 Mount Saint Vincent University Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL) [21]
 Nova Scotia 2004 Dalhousie University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [22]
 Northern Ireland 2004 Queen's University Belfast Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [23]
 Ontario 27 May 2004 University of Manitoba Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [24]
 Ontario 14 November 2004 Carleton University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [25][26]
 Maine 7 May 2005 University of Maine at Fort Kent Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL) [27][28]
 Philippines 2006 Ateneo de Manila University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [29]
 Ontario 18 June 2010 University of Windsor Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) [30][31]
 Ontario 2010 Ryerson University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [32]
 Nova Scotia 2010 Cape Breton University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [33][34]
 Ontario 2011 Queen's University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [35]
 Quebec June 2011 Concordia University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [36]
 Ontario 26 October 2012 University of Western Ontario Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) [37]
 Ontario 2012 Lakehead University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [38]
 Scotland 2014 University of Edinburgh Doctorate [39]
 Quebec ' University of Montreal Doctor of Laws (LL.D)
 Massachusetts ' Bridgewater State College Doctor of Laws (LL.D)

Ribbon bar of The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin


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:[40]

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.
— Supreme Court of Canada, R. v. Sharpe, Paragraph 38

Among her more controversial decisions was her ruling in R. v. Seaboyer, in which she struck down the rape shield law because it violated the right to a fair trial of those accused of sexual assault.

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."[41]

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.[42]


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.[43] 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.[44][45] The International Commission of Jurists concluded that Beverly McLachlin deserved an apology from Harper, but none had been given as of July 2014.[46]

McLachlin charges Canada with cultural genocide (2015)

In May 2015, while still Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 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.[47] 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."[48]

Others were far less sympathetic. Lysiane Gagnon called the comments "unacceptable" and "highly inflammatory" and suggested that McLachlin had opened herself up to accusations of prejudice.[49] Another writer said the use of the word "genocide" was incendiary and disproportionate and that the Chief Justice's comments made her sound like a legislator.[50]

See also


  1. ^ The Spectator: "Justice lies at the heart of what Canada is", 19 Jan 2000
  2. ^ "Mighty Judgment: How The Supreme Court Of Canada Runs Your Life", by Philip Slayton
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "‘Conscious objectivity': That’s how the chief justice defines the top court’s role. Harper might beg to differ", 23 May 2015
  4. ^ a b "Canada’s Chief Justice lays down the law | The Journal". Retrieved 2015-10-13. 
  5. ^ Canada Gazette Part I, Vol. 141, No. 47
  6. ^ Ambafrance
  7. ^ Canada Gazette Part I, Vol. 141, No. 17
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  38. ^ https://www.lakeheadu.cas/default/files/uploads/22/Honorary%20Degree%20Recipient%20List%20-%20Updated%20January%202015.pdf
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  40. ^ R. v. Sharpe (26 January 2001). Retrieved February 20, 2006.
  41. ^
  42. ^ Macfarlane, Emmett (February 6, 2015). "On assisted suicide, the Supreme Court confronts Parliament’s cowardice".  
  43. ^
  44. ^ "Stephen Harper lashes out at top judge on Supreme Court". Toronto Star. May 2, 2014. 
  45. ^ "Legal community demands Stephen Harper withdraw criticism of Beverley McLachlin". Toronto Star. May 13, 2014. 
  46. ^ "International Commission of Jurists demands Stephen Harper apologize to Beverley McLachlin". CBC News. July 25, 2014. 
  47. ^ "Chief Justice says Canada attempted ‘cultural genocide’ on aboriginals", 28 May 2015
  48. ^ "McLachlin said what many have long known", 29 May 2015
  49. ^ Lysiane, Gagnon (10 June 2015). "McLachlin’s comments a disservice to her court, and to aboriginals".  
  50. ^ Gibson, Gordon (10 June 2015). "It is bad for democracy when nine unelected people can make law". National Post. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 

External links

  • 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
Preceded by
Stephen Harper
as Prime Minister
Order of Precedence of Canada
as Chief Justice
Succeeded by
Edward Schreyer
as Former Governor General
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