Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named Richard Wagner, 60, the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.The Governor-General, Prime Minister and Chief Justice are all from Quebec, giving that province a strong position within Canada.
The appointment of Justice Wagner maintains a tradition of alternating between anglophone and francophone chief justices on the country’s top court. The new chief justice is the most senior of the Supreme Court’s three Quebec judges, with five years on the court.
It also maintains bipartisanship in the appointment of chief justices, as he was appointed to the court by Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. Justice Wagner replaces Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the country’s longest-serving Supreme Court chief justice, who spent 17 years in that role. She was appointed chief justice in 2000 by Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, after having been appointed to the court in 1989 by Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney.
Trudeau said in a written statement, “It is an honour to name the Honourable Richard Wagner as the new Chief Justice of Canada,I have the utmost confidence in his ability to lead the highest court of Canada, an institution with a long and respected history of judicial independence and excellence. The judiciary, the legal profession, and all Canadians will be well served by his dedication to upholding the laws and Constitution upon which this country is founded.”
Chief Justice McLachlin, whose last day is Thursday, congratulated Justice Wagner in a written statement, calling him “a distinguished jurist and a person of deep integrity. I am confident he will lead the Court with wisdom and skill.”
In choosing Justice Wagner, Trudeau looked beyond Justice Rosalie Abella, the most senior judge on the court, having been appointed in 2004 by Liberal prime minister Paul Martin. She is 71, and would have had just 3-1/2 years till mandatory retirement. Her name surfaced in discussions among judicial advisers about a successor to Chief Justice McLachlin.
Justice Wagner, who was a business lawyer in Montreal for nearly a quarter-century, was appointed to the Quebec Superior Court in 2004 by a Liberal government, and in 2011 by a Conservative government to the Quebec Court of Appeal.