Tuesday, March 02, 1999Suicide remark was 'included as a facetious chide to the judge'
Following is the text of a public apology issued yesterday in Edmonton by Alberta Appeals Court Justice John McClung:
For 40 years I have served the Courts of Alberta at four different levels and to the best of my ability. But last week I made an overwhelming error. When I read the Supplementary Reasons for Judgment of Madam Justice L'Heureux-Dube in the Ewenchuk case, I allowed myself to be provoked into writing to the National Post. It was published on Feb. 26. The letter has been widely quoted and condemned.
I wish to acknowledge that there was no justification for my doing so. I regret my reaction and appreciate that no circumstances could justify the media as the avenue for the expression of my disappointment.
My letter made reference to current suicide statistics in the Province of Quebec and was only included as a facetious chide to the judge. I thought it would be so understood. What compounded my indiscretion was the fact, unknown to me, that Justice L'Heureux-Dube had undergone a suicide bereavement in her own family. I immediately conveyed my explanation and apology to her later the same day. I sincerely regret what happened and have so advised her. It was a cruel coincidence to which she ought not to have been subjected. But it was a coincidence for which I am answerable.
On Saturday, Feb. 27, the National Post attributed to me further remarks about the Ewenchuk case. Any remarks were not designed to call into question the authority or finality of the Supreme Court of Canada resolution of the case, nor were they designed to impugn the complainant involved in the Ewenchuk assault. The discussion I had with Mr. Ohler, the reporter, was held as background to the issues in the case. I thought it was an off-the-record discussion, as were discussions the previous day. Obviously Mr. Ohler did not. That, in hindsight, was also my mistake.
To be clear, I recognize the overriding authority of the Supreme Court of Canada and any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect. The Canadian system of justice could not function in the absence of a hierarchy of courts.
I deeply regret that what has happened has ignited a debate which could place the administration of justice in an unfortunate light. If so, that was unintentional as I have the highest regard for the justice system in which I serve.
John W. McClung
Justice of Appeal
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