Newspaper article The Canadian Press

McLachlin on Access to Justice, Sexual Assault and Bilingualism on the Bench

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

McLachlin on Access to Justice, Sexual Assault and Bilingualism on the Bench

Article excerpt

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin: key quotes

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OTTAWA - Canada's top justice did her best to stay far away from politics during her visit to Canadian Bar Association's annual conference in Ottawa -- but that's not to say she kept all of her opinions to herself. A sampling:

ACCESS TO JUSTICE

"Access to justice in Canada remains a serious problem that imperils the public's confidence in the justice system," Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said in her speech.

"Rules and procedures are still, sometimes, more complicated than they should be, causing unnecessary delays. Financial barriers continue to thwart access to justice. The low level of funding for legal aid leads litigants to appear in courtrooms without the support of counsel, placing unfair burdens on courts, the litigants, the bar and, ultimately, the public purse.

"And finally, some may hold attitudes of mistrust or fear toward the justice system, refusing to engage with it or acknowledge its legitimacy."

BILINGUALISM ON THE BENCH

"The court is committed, as a court, to functioning in both official languages," said McLachlin, who would not comment specifically on the Liberal government's decision to require all future nominees to the high court be functionally bilingual.

McLachlin said she was already bilingual when she joined the high court in 1989, having taken every French-language course available to her earlier in her judicial career, but still fell there was room for improvement.

"I still had a ways to go to be fully, I felt, comfortable asking questions and functioning at a very high level," she said.

"I used the job to get even better, to try to become even better, because I believe that it's important that we be able to do that."

SEXUAL ASSAULT

McLachlin said there has been a lot of progress in the way the justice system handles sexual assault cases since she was first called to the bar more than 40 years ago. …

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