Judge Wagner, who was a guest of the Council on International Relations of Montreal (CORIM), expressed concern about the stability of the foundation of our society, which are democracy and the rule of law.
Do not underestimate your influence in this regard. You can inspire more than one to better understand the ins and outs of our democracyhe argued.
Encourage those around you to learn about upcoming elections and to exercise their right to vote, especially young people. Learn to recognize and counter the spread of misinformation.
The magistrate cited, among other things, the examples of the convoy of truckers in Ottawa, a leak at the Supreme Court of the United States and the involvement of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in Brexit to illustrate his concerns.
Richard Wagner considers it his duty not only
to safeguard the independence of the judiciarybut also
to react when the rule of law is in question, particularly when our democratic and independent institutions, whether judicial or otherwise, are threatened.
Truckers and Misinformation
In the case of what he called the
so-called freedom convoy in Ottawa, he noted that the highest court was able to function thanks to the support of the police,
but the journalists, who were doing their job a stone’s throw from the Court, unfortunately cannot say the same. Some demonstrators harassed them, hurling insults and abuse at them. Reporters were hustled.
Recalling that the media had to hire security services to protect their employees, he argued that
such a slip-up should be a source of consternation for all of us.
The Chief Justice pointed out that
professional journalists adhere to rigorous codes of ethics and professional standards, and these days they are on the front line in the fight against deliberate disinformation campaigns.
Richard Wagner recalled that the pandemic had led many citizens to live online, where misinformation abounds,
a threat to democratic institutions.
The slippages observed in Ottawa
partly due to misinformationaccording to him, and brought people
to lose confidence in their institutions, hence the importance for all actors in society to redouble their efforts to inform, instruct and educate our fellow citizens in complete transparency with the aim of maintaining, even increasing, their confidence and their respect for our institutions.
Roe vs. Wade:
An unforgivable privacy breach
As luck would have it, Justice Wagner was visiting Washington to meet with his counterparts from the United States Supreme Court when the leak of the judges’ deliberations in the Roe v. Wade case occurred. This leak revealed that the highest court was in the process of overturning the historic 1973 decision, which suggests a return to the criminalization of abortion.
I felt like I was living in a historic momentsaid Judge Wagner, while he was interviewed on stage by the columnist Yves Boisvert, of The Hurry, following his speech. He had to be brought on the sly to the Supreme Court of the United States for his meeting, while major demonstrations were taking place in front of the building.
Richard Wagner did not hide that the affair shook him, a leak at this level being unthinkable.
moi je pense que ça va être de façon permanente– de la Cour. J’espère qu’on n’arrivera jamais là.”,”text”:”C’est triste de voir un tel événement qui porte atteinte à la crédibilité –moi je pense que ça va être de façon permanente– de la Cour. J’espère qu’on n’arrivera jamais là.”}}”>It’s sad to see such an event that undermines the credibility – I think it will be permanently – of the Court. I hope we never get there.
” I’m not sure that bodes well for the rest of the story. It’s hard to imagine anything more serious for a court of law and even more so for a Court of Appeal and a Supreme Court. It’s catastrophic. This is an absolutely unforgivable breach of confidentiality. »
Brexit and the tabloids
In the case of Brexit, he recounted another event that could undermine public confidence in the courts.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom had ruled that the British government could not act without the consent of Parliament. This decision was not well received by the British population who had just supported Brexit by referendum.
et je cite– Ennemis de l’État , Les juges bloquent le Brexit et Les juges contre le peuple. Il s’agissait là d’une attaque flagrante contre la magistrature qui ne faisait alors que son devoir de trancher sur le processus de mise en œuvre du Brexit.”,”text”:”Encore une fois, le hasard a fait en sorte que je participais au même moment à un échange avec la Cour suprême du Royaume-Uni dans la foulée de cette décision.Les tabloïds britanniques en ont fait leurs choux gras en publiant des photos des juges et des titres tels que –et je cite– Ennemis de l’État , Les juges bloquent le Brexit et Les juges contre le peuple. Il s’agissait là d’une attaque flagrante contre la magistrature qui ne faisait alors que son devoir de trancher sur le processus de mise en œuvre du Brexit.”}}”>Once again, by chance, I was at the same time participating in an exchange with the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in the wake of this decision. The British tabloids have had a blast publishing photos of the judges and headlines such as – and I quote – Enemies of the State, Judges block Brexit and The judges against the people. This was a blatant attack on the judiciary, which was only doing its duty to decide on the Brexit implementation process.
” The least we can say is that such attacks can only serve to undermine public confidence in both the judiciary and all so-called democratic institutions. »
Judicial independence requires constant vigilance. No country, not even Canada, can claim to be immune to snags, even thinly veiled attacks, on judicial independence.insisted Judge Wagner.
” No vaccine in the world can immunize us against skids, and it would be wrong to think that it only happens to others. Thus, I call on others to support, at the slightest opportunity, the protection of the democratic values and principles that are so dear to us. Our freedom and our well-being are at stake. »
A bilingual Supreme Court
Richard Wagner once again reiterated his deep conviction that all Supreme Court justices must be bilingual;
a matter of respect, he said. In the same breath, he swept aside doubts about the potential deleterious effects of this condition on candidacies from diversity or First Nations.
Me, I do not accept the argument that we would deprive ourselves of candidates of diversity. People from a variety of backgrounds need to be named, including Indigenous people. I have always said for several years that I dream of sitting with a judge of Aboriginal originhe revealed.
There is only one unilingual Anglophone judge left on the highest court, namely Judge Michael Moldaver, who will retire on September 1st. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
As for the reproach sometimes leveled at the courts for taking the place of elected officials when deciding controversial questions, he rejects them just as much.
We often hear that when there are decisions that do not suit a group. We hear them less when it suits them!
” The government of judges, I don’t believe in that. Take the Supreme Court of Canada. It was Parliament that gave judges the obligation and the responsibility to interpret the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is nothing more legitimate than that: Parliament grants judges the obligation and the duty to interpret, and we accept it. »
Richard Wagner was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in December 2017. He had then served on the highest court in the land since 2012. He had previously served on the Court of Appeals in 2011 and in 2012 after serving as a judge on the Court superior, from 2004 to 2011.