October 5, 1999
Arbour urges courage in courts
Don't be swayed by doubt, new judge tells colleaguesBy Edison Stewart
Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWA - The newest member of the Supreme Court of Canada is urging her colleagues not to be overly swayed by public opinion or doubt.
``I believe that it takes courage to stand apart, where the comfort of conformity is withdrawn. And it takes courage to act in the face of uncertainty, when the luxury of being proven right may be forever withheld,'' Justice Louise Arbour said yesterday.
``It takes courage to speak the language of restraint and respect rather than the diatribe of contempt. And it often takes more courage to yield than to win, and to endorse a result that may not seem perfect, but is good.''
Judges, who are required to speak a language of authority, of finality, must always do so courageously, added the former justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Arbour, sworn in on Sept. 15 after three years leading United Nations war crimes tribunals dealing with atrocities in Rwanda and the Balkans, spoke after being formally welcomed to the court by Chief Justice Antonio Lamer, Justice Minister Anne McLellan, Ontario Attorney-General Jim Flaherty and others.
Lamer, whose court is already at the centre of the storm over its ruling last month that certain aboriginal bands in Quebec and the Maritimes can fish year-round, warned that more controversial issues lie ahead as he prepares to retire Jan. 7. These issues include reproductive technologies, genetic engineering and cloning.
There will also be more cases dealing with aboriginal rights, the definition of and legal responsibilities among family members, and discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and disability, he predicted, wearing the scarlet ermine-lined robe the high court uses for formal occasions.
Osgoode Hall professor Patrick Monahan predicted later that Arbour will be a major asset to the court.
``She brings a tremendous intellect (and) commitment to principle. She has seen countries where the rule of law has broken down and I think will be standing strong for the institution and the court's role.''
Arbour will also be a strong advocate for individual rights, Monahan told reporters.
``I think she is going to be prepared to defend the Constitution and the values in the Constitution, and those values include the protection of individual rights, and that sometimes means overturning the decisions that politicians or police or prosecutors make.''
Arbour, 52, replaces Justice Peter Cory, who retired June 1.
Bernard Muna, Arbour's deputy prosecutor for the war crimes tribunal on Rwanda, said Arbour will be missed. ``She is a very lively person, very quick witted, very compassionate, very understanding, but very professional (and) can be very hard when necessary.''
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