At a media briefing this morning in St. John’s, NL, where the chief justice addressed the Canadian Bar Association’s council, McLachlin said she’s not worried about lack of deference for the courts.
“It’s not for me to say whether there’s an erosion of respect. I think there’s a lot of respect out there, personally. I feel it. I’m not concerned, particularly,” she said. “We have a job to do in our court and we will continue to do it to the best of our ability and hopefully, Canadians will as a result respect the processes that our constitution has put in place.”
The chief justice also said she would not comment on the International Commission of Jurists’ suggestion Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Justice Minister Peter MacKay should apologize for accusing her of inappropriate intervention during Nadon’s failed nomination to the top court.
“I’m not going to comment on that. I’ve said what I have to say on that subject,” she said. “At this point, the important thing is to turn the page and get on the important business of the court.”
During his address to council this morning, CBA president Fred Headon mentioned the organization’s choice to defend the chief justice in that controversy.
“We did not intervene in those debates to be partisan,” he said, adding the CBA had a duty to highlight the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
In regards to a question about the Supreme Court’s rejection of several government laws recently — and the government’s view that the laws are in direct response to the promises on which it was elected — McLachlin said Parliament and the Supreme Court have different jobs to do.
“Constitutional democracy means that institutions have different jobs to do and Parliament has its job to do, which is a very important job — to put before Parliament and vote on laws in accordance with the views of the government of the day and their representatives. That’s their job,” she said.
“Our job, under the constitution, as a court, is to ensure that the government’s responsibility . . . to pass laws that are in conformity with the constitution is maintained. So we’re there as a constitutional review body, which all constitutional democracies have. There must be someone to make sure that the laws that are passed by the legislature are consistent with the constitution. “
In her speech to council in the morning, McLachlin said 2013 was a “busy and productive year” for the top court and she feels “proud” of the court’s achievements.
The court heard 75 cases and rendered 78 judgements last year, she said. In 60 per cent of cases, the court was unanimous in its decisions. McLachlin cited William v. British Columbia, R. v. Bedford, and the reference on senate reform as a few of the weightier matters the court dealt with.