On December 14, 2017, Goldhart & Associates had the privilege of attending the retirement celebration of Beverly McLachlin, the first female and longest serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC).
The event was star studded with Justin Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Adrienne Clarkson, and John Chretien all paying tribute to Justice McLachlin’s distinguished legal career, including her almost 18 years as the Chief Justice.
Throughout the evening, it was Justice McLauchlin’s commitment to humanity that stood out. She was credited with advancing the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian government, speaking out against the negative impact of delays in our justice system, and recognizing the power of the arts in her life and Canadian culture.
From a family law perspective, a few highlights of her career include:
- In her role as Deputy Attorney General, Justice McLachlin gave royal assent to the Civil Marriages Act, which legalized same-sex marriage in Canada
- In Gordon v Goetrz (a leading SCC case on mobility) Justice McLachlin held that there is no presumption that a custodial parent should be permitted to move out of the city/province/country with a child. When a custodial parent wishes to move, the court must consider the best interests of the child, which includes how the child’s access with the non-custodial parent may be impacted
- In Bracklow v. Bracklow, Justice McLachlin explored “what duty does a healthy spouse owe a sick one when the marriage collapses?” Overturning the lower court’s decision, the SCC awarded Mrs. Bracklow spousal support based on: the length of cohabitation, her palpable need, her spouse’s ability to pay, and the hardship she experienced as a result of the breakdown of the marriage.
Canadian lawyers from coast to coast have been enriched by the clearly penned and well-reasoned decisions of Chief Justice McLachlin. She has made immeasurable contributions to the legal profession and to Canada.