Politics

Justice Mary Moreau officially welcomed as the Supreme Court's newest member

Mary Moreau, a judge from Alberta, was officially welcomed Monday as the newest member of the Supreme Court of Canada.

In historic first, women now the majority on highest court

Mary Moreau appears before the House Justice and Human rights committee
Justice Mary Moreau was officially welcomed Monday as the newest justice on the Supreme Court of Canada. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

Mary Moreau has officially been welcomed to her seat on the Supreme Court of Canada as its newest justice.

"To earn and retain the confidence of the public in our justice system, our laws must be respectful of human rights," she said in her speech at the event, in which she also highlighted the need for a timely, accessible and impartial process.

Moreau, a francophone, has served for decades in the Alberta court system, including as the head of the Alberta Court of King's Bench from 2017-23.

Moreau took her seat on the bench during a Monday ceremony in Ottawa that included speeches from Chief Justice Richard Wagner, Justice Minister Arif Virani and other law community officials. The other eight Supreme Court justices were in attendance.

Moreau, who was officially appointed to the court by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last November, thanked friends and colleagues for helping her to settle into her new role in Ottawa.

"With all this support, I feel like I'm wrapped in a warm blanket, though that may also be the effect of wearing these ceremonial robes for the past hour," she said, referencing the justices' distinctive red and white robes.

Virani praised Moreau's leadership on official language rights in Canada. 

"As a Franco-Albertan ... she was at the forefront of advocating for the rights of official language minority communities," Virani said. "I think she's actually developed something of a hero status among French jurists across the country."

Wade MacLauchlan, a former premier of Prince Edward Island, led the independent advisory board responsible for selecting the shortlist that eventually resulted in Moreau's nomination. He said the court needed a candidate who had experience in both criminal and constitutional law.

WATCH | Justice minister comments on Supreme Court appointment:

Justice minister says Moreau appointment creates 'tremendous legacy'

6 months ago
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Arif Virani says Moreau's appointment puts women justices in majority for first time in Supreme Court of Canada's history.

Moreau's appointment was also hailed by Alberta Justice Minister Mickey Amery.

Several speakers commented on Moreau's work modernizing the use of technology and facilitating the use of French in her Alberta court.

Moreau's seat on the court now means that five out of the nine justices are women. It's the first time women have been in the majority in the court's almost 150-year long history.

Speaking to MPs in November, Moreau acknowledged the historic nature of a female-majority court but said she hoped for a situation in which it was "not remarkable" to note.

"Canadians deserve to be able to see themselves represented in the justice system," she said Monday.

Moreau's appointment also means six of the nine justices sitting on the court now were appointed by Trudeau. The remaining three, including Chief Justice Wagner, were appointed by former prime minister Stephen Harper.

The Edmonton-born Moreau replaces Russell Brown, who resigned in June following a claim of misconduct related to an incident at a U.S. resort. Brown denies the claim.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christian Paas-Lang covers federal politics for CBC News in Ottawa as an associate producer with The House and a digital writer with CBC Politics. You can reach him at christian.paas-lang@cbc.ca.

With files from Peter Zimonjic and The Canadian Press

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