Monday, November 26, 2007

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Lamer Dies

The Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from 1990 to 2000, died Saturday in Ottawa at age 74.

He was known to many as a champion of the late 20th-century rights revolution.

Coverage:
  • Antonio Lamer, 74: Supreme Court chief justice (Toronto Star): "During his 20 years on the Supreme Court of Canada, nearly 10 of which he sat as chief justice, Lamer was part of a bench that grappled with the big issues of our day: abortion, euthanasia, aboriginal and minority rights, and the possible secession of Quebec. ... A tough judge, he occasionally invited counsel back to his office for tea after an especially tough grilling by the bench. He was a 'Saturday morning aficionado of hot dogs' on Rideau St. where vendors only knew 'he liked relish and mustard,' not that he was a chief justice of Canada, said Meehan [Eugene Meehan, who served as Lamer's first executive legal officer at the Supreme Court of Canada]."
  • Antonio Lamer, 74 (Globe and Mail, Toronto): "After the Charter was enacted in 1982, the first cases began to filter up to the Supreme Court judge as Mr. Lamer was hitting his stride. A troika of Chief Justice Brian Dickson, Madame Justice Bertha Wilson and Judge Lamer viewed the Charter as a vital document that would be unstintingly used to strike down legislation and reform controversial areas of law. When he retired in 1999 after being the court's chief justice for almost a decade, Mr. Lamer was strongly identified with the protection of the rights of the accused... At a time when the Supreme Court bench was staggered by illness and strong-minded individualists who frequently wrote their own concurring or dissenting reasons for judgment, Mr. Lamer managed to forge a strong record for administrative efficiency. He eliminated the court's backlog and issuing timely judgments.His major decisions ranged from the rights of accused people to a revolutionary aboriginal-rights case known as Delgamuukw. Mr. Lamer played an especially instrumental role in interpreting the moral culpability involved in certain crimes, the right to legal counsel, and the right to be free of improper search and seizure."
  • Former top judge dead at 74 (CanWest News Service): "Lamer had five guiding principles during his time as chief justice - to eliminate delays in the court's administration, to protect minorities, to help Third World countries set up their own judicial systems, to ensure that law-enforcement agencies respected citizens' rights, and most of all, to reinforce the independence of the judiciary. He believed he had made 'great progress' on these objectives. He often spoke out on the independence of the judiciary, saying it's key to a sound justice system. 'Progress in these other areas is dependent on our having an impartial and independent judiciary,' he once said. 'Without an independent and impartial judiciary, there is no justice. And if there is no justice, there can be no liberty'."
  • Lamer remembered as man who kept common touch, despite trappings of office (Canadian Press): "On sunny summer weekdays he frequently fled the austere confines of the court to stroll the Sparks Street Mall in downtown Ottawa at lunchtime, grazing on the fare offered by street vendors. Saturday mornings often found him among the shoppers at the Loblaw's supermarket a few blocks to the east along Rideau Street. 'I would see him sitting at the snack bar with a hotdog and a Coke, shooting the breeze with whoever else was there taking a break from groceries,' recalled Eugene Meehan, a prominent Ottawa lawyer and longtime friend. 'I doubt anyone knew his day job'. Renowned for his expertise in criminal law, Lamer built a reputation on the bench as a man who could see through the legal maze to the human issues at stake in the courtroom. 'He was a champion of rights and liberties,' said Bernard Amyot, president of the Canadian Bar Association ... Lamer had little patience with political critics who accused him - or any of his fellow judges - of unwarranted activism or of usurping the role of elected legislators. As chief justice for the decade from 1990 to his retirement in 2000 he staunchly defended his record in speeches and letters to the editor. 'When I read, when I hear, that the court has become activist, well it hasn't become activist under my stewardship, it has always been activist,' he said."
  • Antonio Lamer n’est plus (La Presse, Montréal): "Jacques Bellemarre parle de son côté d'un homme «coloré». «Il utilisait un langage vivant mais jamais vulgaire, dit-il. Comme sa mère était une anglophone, d'origine irlandaise, sa compréhension des deux langues était impressionnante. Cela dit, il a beaucoup contribué à franciser la Cour suprême.»"
  • Une influence historique (La Presse, Montréal): "Quand la charte des droits est entrée en vigueur, une nouvelle école avait pris le pouvoir à la Cour suprême et ne tarderait pas à s'imposer.En 1992, Antonio Lamer ne cachait d'ailleurs pas ses couleurs: «L'adoption de la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés représente une révolution comparable à l'introduction du système métrique, aux grandes découvertes médicales de Louis Pasteur, à l'invention de la pénicilline et au rayon laser.» ... Lamer est rapidement devenu un brillant avocat de la défense, une vedette du barreau de la fin des années 50 et début 60. Il avait connu les méthodes policières musclées de l'époque, et le juge qu'il est devenu a évidemment été marqué par cette expérience. Aucune perquisition, aucune écoute électronique, aucune fouille de l'État ne peut avoir lieu sans autorisation judiciaire, a-t-il martelé en interprétant la charte, ce qui a forcé à modifier le Code criminel et les pratiques policières au fil des ans - et pas toujours dans la joie."
  • Décès de l'ancien juge en chef de la Cour suprême Antonio Lamer - Le Canada perd un grand défenseur des droits et libertés (Le Devoir, Montréal): "Comme il l’expliquait en entrevue au Devoir en avril dernier, Antonio Lamer prenait la Charte très au sérieux, s’interrogeant des nuits entières sur un article ou un autre. Sa santé s’en est lourdement ressentie, devait-il admettre. Il estimait dans cette entrevue que la Charte avait eu des conséquences positives. Elle a d’abord amené les Canadiens à développer une «culture des droits de la personne», ce qui rejoignait son esprit libertaire. «Je crois, disait-il, que les Canadiens aujourd’hui pensent davantage aux droits de la personne qu’avant.» La Charte est venue aussi encadrer l’exercice des devoirs de l’État. «Les hommes ont délégué à un certain nombre de personnes, non pas des droits, mais le pouvoir de voir à ce que les droits de chacun soient respectés, faisait-il remarquer. L’État n’a pas de droits; l’État n’a que des obligations vis-à-vis des individus et de la collectivité. La collectivité, ce n’est pas l’État mais la somme des individus. [...] L’État a une arme, la loi, qu’on lui donne pour me protéger et vous protéger. Ce n’est pas son droit, c’est son devoir. C’est mon droit par contre d’être protégé.» ... Souvent étiqueté comme de gauche, ou interventionniste, le juge Lamer préférait se dire «libertaire». Il a maintes fois réfuté les accusations de «militantisme» injustifié et les critiques politiques voulant que lui ou d’autres juges usurpent le rôle des législateurs élus. "

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:28 pm

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