Canada’s Sloss retires

 

 

[Our hero Cools  lambasts Dube; http://www.electromagnetism.demon.co.uk/z024.htm . .

 Like our Sloss, Dube is pro-gay marriage. http://www.electromagnetism.demon.co.uk/z024.htm#mark6

 Sloss does as Dube.  http://www.electromagnetism.demon.co.uk/zb036.htm

Profile of Cools;   http://www.sen.parl.gc.ca/acools/     ]



GLOBE AND MAIL
POSTED AT 3:06 AM EDT    Thursday, May 2

"Supreme Court judge announces retirement"

By KIRK MAKIN
From Thursday's Globe and Mail

A pioneering woman in the legal world, Madam Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dub
had endured many affronts in her career. But upon being appointed to the
Supreme Court of Canada, she was shocked when a fellow judge flat out
refused to speak to her.

"He wouldn't talk to me for three months," she recalled, without naming the
judge. "After that, he sent me a note saying: 'You've passed your
probation.' "

The judge would surely not have done the same thing to another man, Judge
L'Heureux-Dub thought at the time. The incident took its place on a long
list of slights that has helped fuel her lifelong quest for equality.

"There was discrimination, yes," she said. "As [former Supreme Court judge]
Bertha Wilson used to tell me, when you are a woman, you have to prove
yourself every day."

Judge L'Heureux-Dub, 74, told Justice Minister Martin Cauchon Wednesday
night that she will step down on July 1. The most senior judge on the
Supreme Court  and arguably its most controversial during her 15-year
tenure  Judge L'Heureux-Dub spoke candidly in her first preretirement
interview about her goals, her trials and her legacy.

She said that she will retire confident that women are now equal partners on
the court. But there were tough times in her early years, when she and Ms.
Wilson felt the sting of exclusion from an otherwise male court.

"When I was appointed to the Quebec Superior Court, I was the only woman
among about 30 men," she said. "At the Quebec Court of Appeal, I was the
only woman among 24 men. I am used to that; it has never really bothered me.
What bothers me is the stereotypes and chauvinism.

"The old boy's club was more active before on the court than it is now. I
feel very comfortable now  particularly now that we [female judges] are
three."

But inasmuch as the court may be a newfound haven of equality, Judge
L'Heureux-Dub said she has little doubt that misogyny lies at the heart of
the rough ride she has suffered at the hands of critics in the legal and
media world. She said this is typical for female judges, whose rulings and
comments would usually pass unnoticed had they come from a man, but may be
attacked and discredited because they come from a woman.

"I was flabbergasted that you could be attacked so personally," she said. "I
don't mind criticism of my judgments  that is part of the territory  but
personal attacks? As far as I'm concerned, it's not acceptable. I believe it
is an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

"But criticism never deterred me," Judge L'Heureux-Dub added. "My
temperament is a rebel. It is more likely to make me determined to go on
with the road I have chosen."

As evidence of this unequal treatment, she cited the high-profile gay-rights
case of M v. H, in which the female judges who wrote all of the lower-court
judgments were harshly criticized. However, when two male judges of the
Supreme Court upheld those rulings, it was suddenly accepted in most
quarters and even praised as a wise and timely affirmation of rights.

"It just gives you a little bit of the script for what is happening," Judge
L'Heureux-Dub said. "Judge Bertha Wilson was also attacked very badly by
some media sometimes. They called her St. Bertha and ridiculed her. And
other women judges have been attacked  mostly women judges who stood up for
human rights.

"I've thought a lot about it, but I have no idea of the reason for it. Do
they think we are weak, that we are easy targets? Do they think we are
stronger, and have to be attacked because of our views? It takes a lot of
courage to go through that and remain faithful to your mission to render
justice."

Within a vocal portion of the criminal defence bar, legal academia and the
right-wing media, Judge L'Heureux-Dub has been reviled as an ideologue with
a feminist, equal-rights agenda. Her enemies see a personal agenda at work
in Judge L'Heureux-Dub's endorsement of the "battered woman's defence," tax
deductions for working mothers, expanded spousal-support provisions, and
protecting the privacy of sexual-assault complainants.

But Judge L'Heureux-Dub is adamant that her views are not bias, but an
embodiment of the values Canadians have always stood for  equality and
humanitarianism.

"It is not an agenda," she said. "It's a perception of what the law is. You
wouldn't want someone here who has a blank mind and hasn't any idea about
the role of the law in society.

"When I talk about domestic violence, I know what I'm talking about. I've
been in the trenches as a family-law practitioner. When I talk about
equality, I know what I'm talking about.

"Having an agenda and pursuing it are quite different things," she added. "A
good judge has an open mind. They don't have an agenda. I don't know any
judge who has an agenda."

The most notorious incident of her judging career involved a tempest over
comments Judge L'Heureux-Dub made two years ago in the rape case Regina v.
Ewanchuk.

The furor erupted after the court decided unanimously to reverse Steve
Ewanchuk's acquittal because the lower courts had erroneously said that Mr.
Ewanchuk mistakenly believed the victim was consenting to sex. The trial
judge  and later, Alberta Court of Appeal Judge John McClung  observed
that the victim's clothing had conveyed a message that was far from chaste.

A concurrence from Judge L'Heureux-Dub and Mr. Justice Charles Gonthier
branded Judge McClung's thinking as stereotypical and outdated  prompting
him to write a letter to a newspaper lambasting Judge L'Heureux-Dub and
saying her attitude helps explain why so many males in Quebec commit
suicide. Several legal commentators and editorialists joined the
unprecedented attack on his behalf.

As it happened, Judge L'Heureux-Dub's husband, Arthur Dub, had committed
suicide several years earlier. Judge L'Heureux-Dub retreated into shocked
silence as the attacks continued.

Noting that Judge Gonthier was left unscathed, she now says that it is
highly doubtful that there would have been any stir had she been a man. "I
can tell you, it hurt  because of the personal attacks on my family, my
husband," Judge L'Heureux-Dub said. "The implication was that I was
responsible [for Mr. Dub's 1978 suicide].

"There is always a kind of stigma about suicide. My husband was the most
wonderful human being you could imagine, but he had this very deep
depression, and that's it. You know, you miss these people that you love.
The attacks brought back all these memories. It was a very difficult period.
Judges are just human beings, and we have feelings and reactions. I
sometimes think people don't realize that we are not mechanical; we are not
robots."

Judge L'Heureux-Dub added that when she included what she thought was a
commonsense observation in the Ewanchuk concurrence, she "never, never
imagined it would bring out this whole saga that has lasted for years."

As a postscript, a few months after the incident, Judge L'Heureux-Dub
learned that Judge McClung was ill. She wrote him an encouraging letter, and
he conveyed his thanks. "For me, that was the closing of the book."

There has been a silver lining to the incident, she added. "That decision
has been used all over the world in judicial education programs. It's
incredible, that something so small and ordinary and inconsequential brought
such fury and had such influence."

It is certainly not the first time her work as been referred to abroad.
Judge L'Heureux-Dub's equality-rights rulings have been influential in many
countries, said lawyer Mahmud Jamal.

"Her framework for analyzing equality and discrimination has been largely
adopted by the South African Constitutional Court, which is a huge accolade
for her and for Canada," Mr. Jamal said in an interview. "The South African
court had its pick of the world's best minds  and it picked her approach."

On a bench that is known for working long hours, Judge L'Heureux-Dub
occupies a niche of her own. She rarely left the court before midnight, and
habitually slept just four hours each night.

"Here, the job is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," she said. "It is a bit
like slavery  but it is a slavery I appreciate."

Judge L'Heureux-Dub's gruelling work habits are in part the product of her
belief that judges must be voracious readers not only of law, but of
developments in all fields.

However, there is another reason. Work has also been an antidote for a life
punctuated by a disproportionate measure of tragedy. The first blow came
when her mother developed multiple sclerosis when Judge L'Heureux-Dub was
just 9. She lived almost 50 years virtually without the use of her arms and
legs.

Then, at 24, one of Judge L'Heureux-Dub's three sisters died of rheumatic
fever.

In 1978, her husband killed himself, and in 1994, her only son died
suddenly. Work became a refuge. "If I had not done that, I would not have
survived my husband's suicide," she said. "I live in the future rather than
the past. You have to build up some resistance to pain  a shield; a way to
survive. I have the ability to compartmentalize my life. I can put my pain
somewhere, and then work. The fact that I was able to work during all those
periods  I think it helped a lot."

A hero to those who advocate on behalf of women, minorities and victims of
violence, Judge L'Heureux-Dub maintains that her critics were naive if they
didn't know where she stood from the very start.

"My main interest in the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] is the equality
provisions," she said. "Through all my legal opinions, I think it is very
evident this was a constant preoccupation. If there is a legacy I would like
to leave, it is that particular concern about equality."



 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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