George W. Bush (R) talks with Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin
Credits: REUTERS/Larry Downing
OTTAWA -- Canada's top judge says the Charter of Rights has developed into a "mature document" over its 30 year history.
In a rare interview Sunday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin told CTV's Question Period that Canadians should be proud of the three decades of jurisprudence developed around the Charter.
"I think we have the first phase fleshed out, the various rights and the way the Charter works in a comprehensible, defensible way so people know what it means, how it applies," she said.
"I think most of the rights and freedoms in the Charter have been commented on in some way or another although there may be some that haven't. And a lot of work we do now is nuance, fine tuning, maybe developing, moving things along a little bit. That's the way the law works. A new situation comes up and so the question in everybody's mind is how will this right be interpreted in light of that new situation."
Asked about an unusual split ruling handed down by the court last week that had McLachlin as one of the dissenting judges, she said her peers at the top court worked hard to reach a consensus in their rulings and had one of the higher rates of agreement when compared to similar courts worldwide.
"We try to agree on everything we can agree on and reduce the number of things we disagree on by a lot of discussion and back and forth. And then we get it down to where we really don't agree," she said.
"But we respect and value the right of dissent when it's important. This is one of the ways the law grows."
McLachlin was named chief justice in 2000 and is the first women to hold the position.
She has also been a vocal advocate for fair access to the judicial system and said that while Canada's justice system "stacks up well" globally, we shouldn't rest on our laurels.
"We do need to realize that for many Canadians, and I'm speaking here particularly about ordinary men, women and children, perhaps someone involved in a family dispute or a small contractual dispute - justice from their perspective is too slow and sometimes too expensive," she said.