Trudeau plays to the home crowd.

Surprise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau played it safe the other day. He appointed Quebec’s Richard Wagner as chief justice of the Supreme Court. We Canadians have had little chance to hear from Wagner prior to this appointment. We have had no real chance to assess what his leadership might mean. We were left out while Trudeau did what elitists do.

At least when Wagner was under consideration for appointment to the supreme court five years ago, the Harper government had him vetted by a committee of the House of Commons. That was as close as we have ever come to having a more democratic selection of our supreme court.

We have to admit it is a smooth transition from long-serving Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who served 28 years on the bench, the last 15 years as Chief Justice. There would have been loud and xenophobic complaints from Quebec if a justice from another province had been selected. As he is the most senior justice from Quebec, Trudeau was expected to select Wagner.

We should remember that Richard Wagner is the son of the late Claude Wagner, Quebecer, jurist and Conservative Cabinet Minister. The son’s conservative roots were obvious when he was the justice (luckily in the minority) that supported Harper’s “tough on crime’ approach and fixed minimum sentences.

Other than those two acknowledgements to the man who appointed him, Wagner has been a justice who appears to go along with the consensus of the court. While somewhat conservative in his opinions, he has never shown any leadership on any subject while on the bench. Mind you, the chief justice only has one vote.

Canadians have become used to having a supreme court that has stood up and been counted in supporting our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The country has been a better place with a court that cares about our democracy. Barring ill health, 60-year old Wagner can look forward to the 15 years in the chief justice position. We can only hope that Canadians do not have cause to regret his tenure.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.