Louise Arbour and the Defence Counsel Conference

October 7, 2013

The Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa (DCAO) held our annual conference this weekend in Montebello, QC.  As usual the conference was well attended and offered a comprehensive program.   

The DCAO conference has a tradition of excellent keynote speakers.  Last year Glenn Greenwald gave a great speech; then he exploded the NSA story.  This year we were honoured to have The Honourable Louise Arbour deliver the keynote address.     

Louise delivered a truly inspiring speech and I was very honoured to be able to introduce her to the defence bar.  Below is the text of my introductory remarks:    

It is a great honour to introduce to you our key note
speaker.The Honourable Louise Arbour really doesn’t need any
introductions – her reputation precedes her. We are all familiar with her body of work that
includes time as a trial judge, a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal and a
Judge on the Supreme Court of Canada. Her international work is simply incomprehensible:
Chief Prosecutor for The International Criminal Tribunals for the former
Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
and most currently President and CEO of the International Crisis Group.Louise holds over 40 honourary degrees, but as many of you may know – perhaps most importantly – she
also holds the prestigious title of my Mother-in-Law.  I hope with that in
mind any informality in my introduction will be forgiven.It is simply mind blowing that next year will mark the
10 year anniversary of Louise’s departure from the Supreme Court.Imagine a SCC composed of Justice McLachlin,
Iacobucci, Major, Binnie, Arbour, LeBel, Fish, Deschamps, and Basterache.Seems may seem like a wild fantasy – but it was a
reality in 2004 – Louise’s last year at the Supreme Court. By next year Mr. Harper will have appointed 7 out of
the 9 Supreme Court justices. Reflect on how the Supreme Court will have
changed over the last 10 years. It may be painful, but I would also ask you to think
about how much criminal law and criminal law policy has changed over the last
ten years.It is safe to say that Louise’s departure 10 years ago
was deep loss to the development of Canadian criminal law, but it would be
unfair to fault her for the negative changes occurred in her absence.Although I do note that when Louise wrote a Supreme
Court judgment – and she wrote 69 of them – she carried the majority 80% of the
time.Taking this into account it may actually be fair to
say that her departure was not an insignificant cause of our current
situation. Thus employing her own logic from the case of R. v.
this in fact means that Louise’s departure was indeed a significant
contributing cause
of our current situation.I have the privilege of being able to spend a great
deal of time with Louise.  I always learn something new when we talk and
recently Louise introduced me to my new favorite quotation:“Between
the rich and the poor, between the master and the servant, between the strong
and the weak, it is freedom that oppresses, and the law that sets free.”This is a quote from 1848 by the French ecclesiastic,
preacher, journalist and political activist Henri-Dominique LacordaireTo plagiarize Louise’s recent address to the UN General Assembly – he was right. The purpose of law in a free and
democratic society is to liberate, not to restrain. It is to create a safe and
just environment in which human conduct is regulated and power is constrained
so that maximum freedom and safety is attained by all.Upon reflection it is this principle that underpinned
so many of Louise’s judgments. It is this principle that Louise has applied to great
effect on the international stage. Clearly Canada’s loss was the worlds gain. But tonight it is our gain that Louise is able to
address us.Please welcome our friend The Honourable Louise Arbour.