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Rights + Justice

The Law According to Beverley McLachlin

VIDEO: The former Supreme Court leader on progress, improving access and rethinking the delivery of justice.

Olamide Olaniyan 19 Nov

Olamide Olaniyan is associate editor at The Tyee.

After joining as editorial assistant in 2019, he became founding editor of The Tyee's federal election newsletter The Run, which won a Digital Publishing Award in 2020. Olaniyan also writes about culture and politics, and has interviewed big thinkers like Harsha Walia, Rinaldo Wilcott and Naomi Klein.

He lives in Vancouver, where he studied economics and political science at the University of British Columbia, and got his start in journalism working at the student newspaper, the Ubyssey, and the campus radio station, CiTR. He previously worked as an editorial fellow at Canadaland. Follow him on Twitter @olapalooza.

There’s no better distraction from a raging pandemic than a 50-minute chat about court decisions and jurisprudence with former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin. Trust us.

McLachlin’s first trip to “beautiful” Salt Spring Island was postponed by COVID-19, but in the meantime she zoomed in to talk to Canadian poet George Sipos about a range of fascinating topics in the latest video interview by the Salt Spring Forum. The talk was titled after her 2019 memoir Truth be Told: The Story of My Life and My Fight for Equality.

Speaking from rural Quebec, the justice answered questions about her role in increasing access to Canadian courts and rethinking how we deliver justice.

“The law gives people certain benefits, rights etcetera in every area of life, and people weren’t able to realize any of those because they couldn’t get access to the courts,” said the justice who retired in 2017. “And this is not right.”

Many people can’t afford legal challenges, and the legal system is perennially backlogged.

“Justice shouldn’t be some sort of abstract principle,” McLachlin said. “It shouldn’t be there just for the well-heeled and corporations and that kind of thing. It ought to be there for ordinary Canadians.”

The interview also includes conversations about how to think about progress, the role of the judiciary and the legal system in society, the politicization of the Supreme Court in the U.S. over several decades, and what McLachlin meant when she used the word “cultural genocide” in 2015 to describe Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people.  [Tyee]

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