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from 1875 to the present

Chief Justices of Canada

Jean Chevrier, D. L. Daigneault & Gerald G. Gummersell, Editors

ISBN 978-1-987832-21-1
(taxes included)

Preface to the Second Edition
Senator Serge Joyal, P.C., O.C. O.Q. FRSC, Ad.E

The Supreme Court of Canada occupies a unique place in our system of government.

Without the presence of an impartial and independent judiciary, the law-based society that is Canada would at best be an aspiration, but certainly not a reality. There are essential relationships between democracy, the independence of the courts, and the rule of law.

In addition to its traditional role as arbiter of last resort in litigation between private parties, the Supreme Court is also “responsible for protecting the balance of constitutional jurisdiction between the two levels of government” and, since 1982, for giving full effect to “individual freedoms and human rights” and the values that underlie the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The judges of this court are the ultimate “guardians of the constitution,” which is founded on the rule of law that serves a very specific purpose: “(it) assures citizens and residents a stable, predictable and orderly society in which to conduct their activities. It provides people with a bulwark against the arbitrariness of the state.” The rule of law is thus “linked to the fundamental notions of democracy” and it is a “principle that every state power, including the judiciary, must strive to maintain.”

The Supreme Court, therefore, occupies a strategic place in the maintenance and development of democracy in the country. It is this court, for example, that has formulated, in landmark judgments, the principles of state neutrality that guarantee the free expression of religious pluralism in Canada’s multicultural society, “a value which is a fundamental basis of our democracy.”

The judiciary and, in particular, the role of chief justice of the Supreme Court command a very high degree of credibility since, ultimately, it holds the key to our democratic stability. Justice Richard Wagner put it well at the time of his swearing in as the new Chief Justice: “Thus, the importance of public confidence in the justice system, because public confidence is the lynchpin of our democracy.”

Consequently, this second edition of The Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada is truly timely because it allows Canadians to better know the people who, in the end, are the guarantors of their rights and freedoms.

The Honourable Serge Joyal is a former federal cabinet minister and Secretary of State for Canada;
he is Chair of the Permanent Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in the Senate.


Jamie Benidickson (Sir Samuel Henry Strong) is Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa and a legal historian whose work includes The Culture of Flushing: A Social and Legal History of Sewage, published by the University of British Columbia Press.

Adam Dodek (Sir Charles Fitzpatrick) is an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law teaching courses on the Supreme Court of Canada, Public Law and Legal Ethics.  He has written widely about the Supreme Court of Canada, the Canadian Constitution, judicial independence, and public law and legal ethics.

Sean Fine (Richard Wagner) is a two-time winner of National Newspaper Awards for his work as The Globe and Mail’s justice writer. He has interviewed the last four chief justices.

Philip Girard (Bora Laskin) clerked for Justice W. Z. Estey during Bora Laskin’s tenure as Chief Justice. He is the author of Bora Laskin: Bringing Law to Life, and is a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, Ontario
Sébastien Grammond (Joseph Honoré Gérald Fauteux) is the former Dean of the Section on Civil Law at the University of Ottawa. He holds a doctorate from Oxford University and is a specialist on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Susan Harada (Antonio Lamer) is a Carleton University journalism professor and former CBC reporter who has focused on Supreme Court and justice issues.

John J. L. Hunter, Q.C. (Francis Alexander Anglin) is a senior litigation counsel at Hunter Litigation Chambers, Vancouver, BC. He is past president of the Law Society of British Columbia and of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.

Senator Serge Joyal, P.C. (Preface to the Second Edition) The Honourable Serge Joyal has been a member of parliament, a federal cabinet minister and Secretary of State for Canada; he has been a senator since 1997 and is Chair of the Permanent Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in the Senate. He has intervened, in a personal capacity, several times before the courts to defend the recognition of rights and freedoms, and the fundamental principles of parliamentary institutions. He is the author and editor of several articles and works on parliamentary and constitutional law, as well as essays on social and political history.

Guy Levebvre (Sir Henri-Elzéar Taschereau) is Dean of the Faculty of Law at l’Université de Montréal. A graduate of the University and of the University College London, he is active in the development of multilateral academic exchanges, notably with China.

Justice James MacPherson (Sir Louis Henry Davies) has been a judge on the Court of Appeal for Ontario since 1999. He was Dean of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School, Executive Legal Officer at the Supreme Court of Canada, Director of Constitutional Law for the Government of Saskatchewan and a law professor at the University of Victoria.

Lawrence Martin (Sir William Buell Richards) is a graduate of McMaster and Harvard Universities. The author of ten books, including The Presidents and the Prime Ministers, two volumes on Jean Chretien and Harperland, The Politics of Control, he was a correspondent for The Globe and Mail and now writes a regular column on public affairs.

Carissima Mathen (Patrick Kerwin) is Vice Dean and Full Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa (Common Law Section). She teaches Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Comparative Civil Liberties.

Eugene Meehan (Beverley McLachlin) is Partner at Supreme Advocacy LLP, Ottawa, specializing in Supreme Court advocacy. He holds degrees in law from the University of Edinburgh, University of Ottawa, and McGill University. He is a practising member of the bars of Ontario, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut and Saskatchewan, and is also licenced to practise law in the state of Arizona. He was Executive Legal Officer at the Supreme Court of Canada from 1990 to 1992.

E. Bruce Mellett (Sir William Johnstone Ritchie) received an LL.B from Queen’s University and after serving as a law clerk to the Honourable Beverley McLachlin at the Supreme Court of Canada, he is a litigator at Bennett Jones in Calgary.

Michel Morin (Robert Taschereau) is a full Professor in the Faculty of Law at l’Université de Montréal. His teaching and research activities focus on the comparative history of common law and civil law, and on the rights of indigenous people.

Sylvio Normand (Thibaudeau Rinfret) is a professor of civil law and legal history with the Faculty of Law at l’Université Laval.

Jim Phillips (Preface to the First Edition) is a professor in the Faculty of Law and Department of History at the University of Toronto, and Editor-in-Chief of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History.

Peter H. Russell (John Robert Cartwright) is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Principal of Senior College at the University of Toronto. He wrote the book-length study of the Supreme Court for the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism when John Cartwright was Chief Justice. Russell has published widely on constitutional and aboriginal politics, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Justice Robert J. Sharpe (Robert George Brian Dickson) is a judge of the Court of Appeal for Ontario and the author of several books on Canadian law and legal history including Brian Dickson: A Judge’s Journey with Kent Roach (Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History/University of Toronto Press).

Lorne Sossin (Sir Lyman Poore Duff) is Dean of and a Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. Dean Sossin teaches and writes on administrative and constitutional law, the judicial process and access to justice. He is the author of Boundaries of Judicial Review: The Law of Justiciability in Canada.

With thanks to researchers Sylvie Cléroux, Kim Francoeur, and Cory Giordano.


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