National Post

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Friday, April 02, 1999

Council rejects complaint against L'Heureux-Dube

Francine Dube
National Post

Supreme Court Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dube did nothing wrong when she used strong language to criticize a lower court judge, says a ruling from the Canadian Judicial Council released yesterday.

"The language used by the judge in this case was certainly robust, but well within the ambit of the case, and therefore not outside the realm of appropriate judicial conduct," reads the ruling by Allan McEachern, Chief Justice of British Columbia, and chairman of the Judicial Conduct Committee.

Judge McEachern was responding to a complaint by REAL women of Canada, which had demanded that Judge L'Heureux-Dube be fired.

The group had complained about the "demeaning personal invective" she levelled at Appeal Court of Alberta Justice John McClung in a Supreme Court ruling in February.

In the ruling, Judge L'Heureux-Dube criticized Judge McClung's description of a sexual assault on a 17-year-old girl as "less criminal than hormonal." She also took Judge McClung to task for pointing out that the young woman was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, not a "bonnet and crinolines," to a job interview, during which she said she was assaulted.

Judge L'Heureux-Dube said Judge McClung's language "perpetuates archaic myths and stereotypes."

Gwen Landolt, REAL Women's founder and vice-president, complained Judge L'Heureux-Dube is out of step with ordinary Canadians. "We shouldn't have to pay the salary of a radical feminist who sits on the bench and used her position to promote her own personal agenda," Mrs. Landolt said when she filed her complaint.

But in his decision released yesterday, Judge McEachern said that although Judge L'Heureux-Dube's ruling included "strong language," judges must be free to express themselves "without fear of punishment or reprisal so long as they confine themselves within the broad parameters of the case they are deciding."

Judge L'Heureux-Dube's comments in the February case touched off a judicial firestorm. After its release, Judge McClung took the unprecedented step of writing a letter of complaint for publication in the National Post, linking Judge L'Heureux-Dube's decision with Quebec's growing male suicide rate. He later apologized.

The outburst led to numerous charges against the two judges to the Judicial Council of Canada. Yesterday's decision relates only to REAL Women complaint.

The Calgary Chapter of the national Council of Women of Canada and the National Shared Parenting Association also filed complaints against Judge L'Heureux-Dube.

The National Association of Women and the Law, the National Council of Women of Canada, and Alexa McDonough, the NDP leader, complained to the council about Judge McClung.

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