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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Speech by the Most Honourable Antonio Lamer, PC, CC, CD, LLD, DU Visual representation of nature's laws

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September 26, 2002

The Parent Centre [St. Paul University, Ottawa]

Having acted for many years, practically daily, as a lawyer and counsel, having given many speeches during the fifties during federal and provincial elections, and subsequently, as a professor and eventually as Chief Justice of Canada, I can humbly say that I am at ease when it comes to speaking in public to all sorts of groups.

So it was that when Sister Claudette Brunet asked me to come and speak you today, I was foolhardy enough to accept without hesitation, but I soon discovered that the subject I taken on - that of blending love and the law - was to be the most difficult speech I have ever had to prepare in my life. It was during a television interview (I believe it was Maisonneuve a I 'ecoute) that the interviewer asked me, just after we had received the signal that there was only 30 seconds left to go, "For you, Mr. Chief Justice, what is justice?" Without thinking (I didn't have time to think), and without hesitating, I spontaneously replied, "It's simple, it's loving your neighbour".

As I walked out of the studio, I said to myself: "What the Devil (in the light of my particular audience, I might have said what in God's name) got into me to say that?" However it was the beginning of some very fruitful thinking and research on the subject which made it possible for me to explore the complex relationship, to the extent that there is one, between the law, justice, the love of one's neighbour and God, in our Canadian legal system.

The laws of man (in the sense of human legislation) have nothing to do with love except when love is in the interests of justice. They can, instead of being instruments of justice, be the handmaids of intolerance, inequality, neighbourly strife, cupidity, and dishonesty. Let it be said in passing, that no church has escaped this, and even today, there are too many of them where although justice is preached, discrimination is practised in the choice of persons, sometimes by excluding women, who have a right to expect justice. Aristotle taught us this in his Nicomachean Ethics, when he wrote:

It seems that the unjust man is the one who wishes to possess more than is his due even if it is at the expense of others, as much the one who breaks the law. As well, it is obvious that people who are just are the ones who conform to the laws and observe equal rights. The unjust drag us into illegal and unjust situations.

The Law is only one of the instruments available to those to whom we have delegated the power of governing and maintaining order for the greater good of mankind.

In the past, it was held that Kings had God-given authority. They were anointed, and they committed themselves to governing via, among other measures, laws which were supposed to be in harmony with the Divine Laws.

Today, when Kings have been replaced by delegates of the people, it is still so, at least in Canada. Except for a few exceptions, the oaths of office always end with "so help me God", as seen with Section 10 of the Supreme Court Act concerning the oaths taken by its judges.

To further support my view, I ask you to bear with me. Of course, I do not expect that you will all agree with the conclusions I outlined at the beginning of my talk.

Translated by Juliette Champagne, PhD

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