October 6, 2014
(Check against delivery)
Chief Justice McLachlin;
Honourable Members of the Court;
Ladies and gentlemen;
It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today on this special occasion, as we officially welcome the most recent addition to the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Honourable Mr. Justice Clément Gascon.
As Canadians, we take pride in our justice system, with good reason.
Not only is it recognized and respected around the world, it is also a vital part of our national identity and of how we understand and express ourselves as individuals and as a society.
At its heart lies a profound commitment to the rule of law, but it is also fundamentally built on a bijural legal heritage that draws on both the common law and civil law traditions born of our constitution and the very origins of our country.
We have a sophisticated system of courts that enables us to settle our differences peacefully and fairly, and these courts are presided over by an intelligent and independent judiciary that is highly regarded for its expertise and integrity.
The women and men who accept the call to serve the Canadian public as members of the judiciary – at all levels – deserve both our respect and our gratitude for taking on the immense responsibility that comes with embarking on a role so vitally dedicated to civil service.
Clearly, then, the appointment of a new member to the country's highest court is a matter of the greatest importance.
Indeed, it would be hard to overstate the significance of the Supreme Court of Canada in our justice system and in the life of the country as a whole – or more importantly, to the lives of Canadians.
To be named to the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada is a great achievement for any judge – recognition for excellence in law, meritorious service, and high intelligence.
Accordingly, Mr. Justice Gascon, it gives me great pleasure, as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, to congratulate you on your appointment.
It is an honour that is well-deserved and a reflection of the high esteem in which you are held by your colleagues throughout the legal community, in Quebec and across Canada.
It is also fair to say that you have no small task ahead of you in taking the place of your accomplished predecessor, the Honourable Mr. Justice Morris Fish – a judge who has left his mark on the Court and the country and whose experience and insight will no doubt be greatly missed.
Like all who know you, I am confident that your intellect, skills, and experience will serve you well as you commence your new role – you will surely soon find yourself at home in your new position as a member of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Mr. Justice Clément Gascon has had a career that is impressive by any standard.
In the course of some thirty-two years of service as a lawyer and a judge, he has built a solid reputation both for his legal knowledge and expertise and for his deep and longstanding commitment to the law and to the administration of justice.
Called to the bar of Quebec in 1982, Mr. Justice Gascon joined the firm of Heenan Blaikie in Montreal.
For the next two decades, he developed his skills as a litigator, specializing in matters of civil and commercial law and earning the respect of his clients and colleagues.
During these years he also shared his knowledge of the complexities of business law, labour law and related areas by teaching and lecturing at a number of academic and professional institutions, including McGill University and the Bar of Quebec.
With his appointment to the Quebec Superior Court in 2002, Mr. Justice Gascon began a new phase of his career, one that has clearly suited him well.
In the years he spent with the Superior Court, he became an invaluable part of the Montreal Court's Commercial Division while continuing to be extensively involved in professional associations.
After a decade of service to the Superior Court, Mr. Justice Gascon was named to the bench of the Quebec Court of Appeal, where he continued to distinguish himself for his expertise and insight and as a hard-working and dedicated jurist.
I will leave it to others to describe the details of Mr. Justice Gascon's remarkable career, his many accomplishments and his contributions to the legal community in Quebec.
As the Prime Minister has mentioned, the appointment of Mr. Justice Gascon to the Supreme Court of Canada was preceded by broad consultations with Quebec's legal community.
These included the Government of Quebec, the province's Chief Justice and the Chief Justice of the Quebec Superior Court, as well as the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau du Québec, and the Barreau de Montréal and of course this court itself.
This process confirmed Mr. Justice Gascon's reputation as an outstanding jurist whose professional integrity and wealth of legal knowledge and experience would make him an excellent addition to the nation's highest court.
It is often noted that one of the strengths of the judiciary in this country is the diversity of experience and skills that the individual judges bring to their tasks.
The result is a combination of different but complementary perspectives, grounded in a shared devotion to the law and public service, which enriches our courts and our justice system as a whole.
This is particularly important in the context of our highest court, which is called upon to address issues of national concern and to speak with a unique authority in resolving contentious matters from across the country.
Over the years, the Supreme Court of Canada has been blessed with a great many brilliant jurists, and the appointment of Mr. Justice Gascon reflects our Government's commitment to supporting that proud tradition of legal excellence and merit.
Ensuring that Canadians everywhere can have confidence in our highest court, and in our justice system as a whole, continues to be one of our top priorities.
The people of this country expect and deserve no less. There will be no shortage of challenging issues to come in the months and years ahead, but I have no doubt that, with the help of Mr. Justice Gascon, the Supreme Court of Canada – with a full complement of judges – will continue to serve the Canadian public with its customary integrity and efficiency.
Mr. Justice Gascon: Once more, allow me to offer you my warmest congratulations on behalf of the people of Canada and my best wishes as you take up the duties of this distinguished office.