Remarks Prior to the First Hearing in Quebec City

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Remarks by the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C.
Chief Justice of Canada

Good morning and welcome to the Supreme Court of Canada, which is sitting in Quebec City this week for the first time in its history. We’re very happy to be here today.

This is only the second time the Court has travelled outside of Ottawa to hear cases elsewhere in the country. The first time was in Winnipeg in 2019. The judges and Court employees are delighted to be in the most beautiful heritage city in North America. We are all touched by the warm welcome from your community.

Hearing cases outside of Ottawa is an initiative inspired by the principles of access to justice and an open court. The visit of the Supreme Court of Canada to Quebec City is an opportunity for the Court to make its work, activities and role in Canadian democracy known to a wider audience.

So far this week, all nine of us judges have traveled across the region to speak with high school students. I have to tell you, they asked us some very good questions. The Court will meet many more people throughout the week, ending on Friday with law students at Université Laval.

I hope to see some of you this afternoon at the Musée de la civilisation, where the Court will host a free public event and take questions from the public.  

The Supreme Court is Canada’s final court of appeal. It decides some of the country’s most important and complex legal questions. In so doing, the Court clarifies the law for all Canadians, ensuring that it is applied equally and fairly across the country. That is why it is important people understand how and why the Court makes its decisions. After all, it’s hard to trust something you don’t understand.

That is why the Supreme Court makes opportunities to show people what we do and how we do it. And just as you are all here today – you are free to attend hearings anywhere else in Québec. All of Canada’s courts are open, impartial and independent. That makes us something of a democratic superpower!

I would like to mention one last thing before we begin today’s hearing. On behalf of myself and my colleagues, I would like to express our most sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Chief Justice of Quebec, Madame Manon Savard, as well as to the Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Quebec, Madame Catherine La Rosa, and the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec, Madam Lucie Rondeau. The hearings and our activities this week have been made possible by their enthusiastic and invaluable support.

Many of you may have already remarked that the name of today’s case has been altered to reflect that Canada has a new Head of State. Where this case was initially filed as Her Majesty the Queen versus Pascal Breault, it is now His Majesty the King. In practice, that is the only change that will occur at the Court due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

On a personal note, the passing of Queen Elizabeth II has caused me to reflect on my six months as Administrator of Canada in 2021, when the previous Governor General left office. The experience gave me a greater appreciation of the strength and health of our democratic institutions. I hope that attending today’s hearing does the same for you.

Now let’s get started.


Remarks Prior to the First Hearing in Quebec City
Chief Justice of Canada
Quebec City, Quebec
September 14, 2022