Thursday, March 09, 2006

Did you Hear? Marshall Rothstein is on the Supreme Court

I was surprised by the near total lack of media coverage today about Marshall Rothstein being sworn in as Canada's newest member of the Supreme Court. The only article I found on the globe and mail or was from Broadcast news and was a total of 99 words.

It's such a sharp contrast to the amount of coverage given to American supreme court justices. Mr. Rothstein's swearing in is particularly newsworthy because of the way he was appointed and his judicial philosophy.

When Stephen Harper announced his nomination, Mr Rothstein agreed to sit before Canada's first ever confirmation hearing for a supreme court justice. Although it amounted to only one afternoon of being interviewed by an all party committee, the hearing was still a radical departure from the absolute authority previous Prime Ministers have exercised when appointed new judges.

Even more encouraging is our newest supreme court justice's judicial philosophy. He is joining one of the most activist courts in the world; a court that recently ruled that laws banning sex-orgy clubs are unconstitutional. But Mr Rothstein was clear in his nomination hearing that he is not a judicial activist, while he recognizes that his role will be to determine whether laws comply with Canada's Charter of rights and freedoms, he stated, "The important thing is that judges, when applying the charter, have to have recognition that the statute that they're dealing with was passed by a democratically elected legislature, and therefore, they have to approach the matter with some restraint."

There are many controversial issues that Canada is likely to face in the coming years. Challenging questions such as the sanctity of marriage, euthanasia, and the right to free speech will demand an open public debate. What a relief that at least one supreme court justice has the wisdom to leave social policy to government saying, "It seems to me that the social agenda is the agenda for Parliament and if Parliament wants to advance the law in social terms, that's their job."

I sincerely hope that Mr. Rothstein can bring the rest of his peers around to his way of thinking, so that order can be restored to Canada's public policy process.

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