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Chief Justice Richard Wagner

SCC to sit in Quebec City next year in new ‘tradition’ for expanding public’s access, understanding

Thursday, September 02, 2021 @ 9:09 AM | By Cristin Schmitz


After garnering enthusiastic public feedback in Manitoba two years ago, when the Supreme Court ventured forth to Winnipeg to hear its first cases outside Ottawa, the top court is planning to hear two appeals in Quebec City next year.

Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner, who spearheaded the court’s novel outreach initiative, announced Sept. 1 that the court will hear two as-yet unnamed appeals from Sept. 12 to 16, 2022, in Quebec’s capital city.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner

Chief Justice Richard Wagner

“The court’s goal in sitting outside of Ottawa again is to make this a tradition,” the chief justice explained in a statement. “This initiative is part of the court’s continued commitment to increasing access to justice and providing opportunities for members of the public to learn more about their justice system and, in particular, to see how the court’s decisions affect everyone’s lives,” he said. “This visit will also be an exceptional opportunity to make people aware of how the various courts in Quebec function,” said the chief justice, a former civil litigator from Quebec who helped create the province’s Centre d’accès à l’information juridique (CAIJ), which provides legal information to lawyers, judges and law students.

The Quebec Court of Appeal, Superior Court and the Court of Québec are working with the Supreme Court to prepare for the visit. “We are all delighted about this unique legal encounter,” Chief Justice of Quebec Manon Savard said in a statement. “Welcoming the highest court in the land is a major event for everyone, especially those connected in some way with the legal community. The Supreme Court’s presence in Québec City will contribute not only to building ties with the public, but also to demystifying the justice system.”

As it did while in Winnipeg, the highest court will meet with the public and members of various communities, including students and the legal community.

In 2019, the top court’s presence was warmly welcomed by Manitobans, who began to line up before dawn at the Winnipeg Law Courts for the historic opportunity to watch the nine judges live and in action as the Supreme Court sat for the first time outside its Ottawa home base since the court’s creation in 1875.

By the time the first of two appeals started at around 9:45 a.m. (CDT), there were 159 people in a line that began to form soon after 6 a.m. to hear the criminal case.

By the time the hearing was over, 180 members of the public were rotated through the courtroom’s 40-seat public gallery (in half-hour stints) with court watchers also able to see the proceedings from an overflow room.

The chief justice also held a press conference on the first day of the court’s weeklong visit, and the judges all participated in a question-and-answer session with the public in a 400-seat auditorium. The Q&A session was followed by an informal public meet and greet with the judges.

“I often say that the Supreme Court is not an ivory tower,” Chief Justice Wagner said at the time. “Every Canadian is welcome to walk through our doors and sit in our courtroom,” he stressed. “One of the reasons we are here today is to make that a little easier for people who cannot easily travel to Ottawa to see Canada’s highest court in person. But it is not just the Supreme Court that extends this welcome. We have a strong and open court system in Canada, and you can visit virtually any court in the country and watch the proceedings, including the courtrooms right here in this building. I encourage you to do so if you can.”

Photo of Chief Justice Richard Wagner by Supreme Court of Canada Collection

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact Cristin Schmitz at Cristin.Schmitz@lexisnexis.ca or at 613-820-2794.