June 21st, 2024

Elected leaders should read Supreme Court decisions before speaking, says top justice

By The Canadian Press on June 3, 2024.

Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner speaks during a news conference, in Ottawa, Monday, June 3, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – The chief justice of the Supreme Court is sending a warning about the risks elected officials run by reacting to decisions from the court without first having read the rulings themselves.

Richard Wagner issued that call during his annual news conference on the work of the top court and other matters pertaining to the administration of justice.

Wagner says he is concerned about the spread of false information on court rulings, and politicians criticizing rulings based in part on which judge delivered them.

He brought up a March ruling in a sexual assault case that at one point used the phrase “person with a vagina.”

Some columnists blasted that phrasing and Quebec legislators unanimously passed a motion denouncing the ruling, claiming it tried to make women invisible and underlining the importance of using the word “woman.”

But the ruling itself did use the word “woman” many times, and after the vote the Quebec Liberal Party said it had regrets in going along with the motion.

Speaking in French, Wagner said today that had those commenting on the widely-reported part of the decision actually read it themselves, they would have seen the Supreme Court “never wished to devalue the notion of womanhood.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2024.

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