Q + A with the Right Honourable Richard Wagner

Practice Point

Q + A with the Right Honourable Richard Wagner

CLEBC is honoured to have the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, PC, Chief Justice of Canada deliver the opening address at our Administrative Law Conference 2018.

In advance of the conference, Chief Justice Wagner kindly granted us an interview to share his thoughts on developments in administrative law, his advice for lawyers advocating before the Supreme Court of Canada, and his experiences transitioning into the role of Chief Justice of Canada.  

What topic(s) will you be speaking to in your opening address at Administrative Law Conference 2018?

I’ll be speaking about the importance of administrative law in Canadian society. Administrative law issues tend to fly under the general public’s radar, but it has an outsized role in how Canadians interact with their government and live their lives.

What important developments and trends do you currently see in the area of administrative law?

Ten years after Dunsmuir, there is a need to consider once again the nature and scope of judicial review. The Court is looking forward to doing this in the upcoming appeals in Bell, Vavilov, and NFL.

What advice do you have for lawyers advocating before the Supreme Court of Canada?

Get to the point. The judges have read and analyzed your factum. We know the facts and we know what the tough issues are. Get right to them.

How has your experience been transitioning into your new role as Chief Justice of Canada? What are some new challenges and rewards that you face in this role?

The transition has been overwhelmingly positive, and I have the good fortune to work with a team of wise and supportive judges. It’s a very busy job, but I enjoy having the ability to guide the direction of the Court in finding new ways to reach out to the public. Speaking to groups of lawyers, judges, and members of the public, sharing my views on different aspects of our justice system and hearing theirs, has also been very gratifying.

After you assumed office as Chief Justice of Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada began releasing plain language summaries for its decisions. Tell us more about what inspired the Court to create these summaries and what you hope for these summaries to achieve.

The Court isn’t just for lawyers and judges; it’s for all Canadians. Its work should be accessible to all. But people are busy, and judgments can be long and technical. The Court realized we needed to provide the public with clear and cogent overviews of our decisions. That’s what our Cases in Brief are meant to do. The goal is to maintain Canadians’ confidence and trust in our legal system.