Madame Justice Charron: Thank you for that very generous and warm introduction. You are a jewel in the Crown of Common Law. The names “Fauteux”1, “Bastarache”2, “Charron”3 and now “Wagner”4 are jurisprudential giants associated with the Faculty of Law.
I would also like to thank Elder Claudette Commanda and Elder Verna McGregor of the Algonquin Nation for welcoming me and welcoming all of us not just onto their territory but into their community. This ceremony was incredibly special and incredibly emotional for me and for family. I know that it will spark discussion in our house for many years. Thank you.
We are situated on unceded Algonquin territory. This gives us the opportunity to learn from our indigenous community and to actively participate in the project of reconciliation. Thus, this declaration of reconciliation is not simply symbolic, but it is equally a declaration of our reconciliation as a fundamental value of this Faculty of Law. It leads us in the direction of the Future for our Faculty of Law.
And that future will be grounded in our past. The Feeney Lecture reminds us of our past – of the founding of the Faculty of Law by Justice Gérald Fauteux who in 1957 entrusted the teaching of Common Law in English to a young New Brunswicker named Thomas Feeney. Twenty years later, under the leadership of Dean Bert Hubbard, Faculty Council approved the teaching of Common Law in French, on a trial basis for two years.
That was in 1977! Last year, the Program in Common Law in French celebrated its 40th anniversary with the enthusiastic support of our faculty, our alumni, our students and the legal community like AJEFO (Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario).
I stand before you this evening as a bridge from this great past to a hopefully even greater future for Common Law. And I am often asked about my vision for the Faculty. That is what I want to share with you for a few minutes.
For me, when we speak of « vision », we speak of the future for the Faculty. In my mind, this must be based on what I see now.
This is what I see:
I see myself as responsible to four interlocking constituencies: students, faculty, staff and alumni.
I see all of these groups as part of the Common Law community and surrounded by other communities: the University of Ottawa, the legal community and broader public.
I see the legal profession under pressure and in flux. I see competition, change and uncertainty.
When I look at our students, I see an incredibly talented and diverse group who reflect the diversity of Canada much more than the legal profession does.
I see students full of energy and creativity, engaged in social justice and working to support each other.
I see their idealism, wanting to use the law to improve society.
Our challenge is to support them in their efforts.
The Building. Yes, we are in a building that is no longer at is best and which has many challenges. But if we look beyond the physical space, and look at our geographical space, we must acknowledge that we are situated in the National Capital, in the Capital of a G-8 country, a few steps away from Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada.
I see a Faculty that are national and global leaders in multiple fields. If you do 2 or 3 things well, you are fortunate, but I see Common Law as leaders in so many areas:
Aboriginal and Indigenous Law;
Dispute Resolution; and
But that is not all:
Immigration and Refugee Law; and
International Law and International Trade;
And there’s more!
Law and Technology;
Public Law; and
My wife said this list was too long. She is right. The problem is that it is true. It is not simply the boastful words of an optimistic Dean trying to promote his faculty.
Our professors in these fields are recognized by their peers nationally and internationally. They have received research chairs and many prestigious prizes including the Order of Canada, Order of Ontario, Law Society Medal and have been inducted in the Royal Society of Canada.
I also see Common Law as the best law school in the country for women. Over 50% of our faculty are women and have been for more than a decade. Seven of those 9 research chairs are held by women including the Shirley Greenberg Chair in Women in the Legal Profession. Over 60% of our students are women and those students have created important programs including the Women’s Legal Mentorship Program.
When it comes to Alumni, I see our graduates working in private and public practice but also in many areas outside of the law. When I look at our most accomplished alumni, those that have been inducted into the Common Law Honour Society – many of whom are here tonight – I ask what unites them?
They include Supreme Court judges, politicians and public servants. We have amongst them community advocates, indigenous activists and educators. But also entrepreneurs, lawyers and Stanley Cup champions. The thread uniting these graduates is leadership.
And that takes me to my vision for the Faculty of Law which I hope I can sum up for you rather quickly so we can move into the more substantive part of the evening.
My vision for Common Law is to focus on leadership. I believe that whatever our students do – whether she works in private practice, whether she is the Managing Partner of a Global Law Firm, an entrepreneur, a social activist or a politician – each one is a leader.
We should focus more on this idea of leadership in terms of recruitment, education and programming.
But we too as a faculty must be leaders. We will of course continue to be leaders in research, teaching and public engagement. But we will also become leaders in legal education.
My vision is nothing less than to transform the law school experience and to make Common Law at the University of Ottawa your Law School to Life / Votre Faculté pour la vie: to create lifelong attachments between the law school and alumni. For many of you, you are here because you have this attachment. You have given so much to the school over your career.
My vision is to promote the tradition of excellence and expand upon it in accordance with our fundamental values:
- Social Justice
- Equality, diversity & inclusion
- Feminism ; and
Excellence. Leadership. And Community. That has always been our mantra at Common Law and it should continue to be so.
Thank you to all of you for your engagement in the Common Law Community. I hope that you will join me as we work to make the Faculty of Law the leader in its field in Canada and internationally.
Merci / Thank you.
1. The Hon. Gerald Fauteux was a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and the founder of the law faculty at the University of Ottawa in 1953 at which point it was only a Civil Law Faculty. He continued to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court and Dean of the Faculty until 1962. In 1970, Fauteux was named Chief Justice of Canada. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%A9rald_Fauteux
2. The Hon. Michel Bastarache received his LLB from the University of Ottawa in 1978 and served as Associate Dean of the French Program from 1984-87. He served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from 1997-2008. He is a member of the Common Law Honour Society.
3. The Hon. Louise Charron received her LLB from the University of Ottawa in 1975 and taught at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law before her appointment to the bench in 1988. She served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from 2004-2011.
4. The Right Honourable Richard Wagner became Chief Justice of Canada on December 18, 2017. He received his B.Soc.Sc. and his LL.L. from the University of Ottawa in 1978. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2012.