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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