Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Supremes v Maurice Vellacot

As Spiderman's Uncle Ben pointed out, with great power comes great responsibility. In a democracy, it at least comes with the need to put up with potshots from the rabble and their elected representatives. The opposition parties and the CBA are demanding the head of Maurice Vellacot, Tory chair of the Commons aboriginal affairs committee. His offence is saying that Chief Justice McLachlin claimed "god-like powers" in her speech to Kiwi law students I was just blogging about before this storm erupted.

The Chief herself intervened, alleging that she had been misquoted.

Now, the Pithlord doubts that the man on the Clapham omnibus, or the woman on the Yonge Street line, would have trouble figuring out that Mr. Vellacot was paraphrasing, rather than directly quoting the Chief on the subject of the court's divinity. So that aspect of the contretemps is just bogus.

What is more disturbing is the attempt to shut down critics of McLachlin's view, critics who include former NDP Premier and broker of the 1981 deal, Allan Blakeney, former Supreme Court JUstice Gerard La Forest, and, I think, most constitutional lawyers. Certainly, the notion that "the rule of law requires judges to uphold unwritten constitutional norms, even in the face of clearly enacted laws", which the Chief expressed, is contrary to all judicial authority on the subject predating 1997. And 1997 is not so long ago that critics of this development should be the ones on the defensive.

If they aren't Gods, they are mortals. And mortals need to develop a thicker skin.

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