A Chief and Court in Transition: The Wagner Court and the Constitution
Constitutional Cases 2018 (Supreme Court Law Reports; Fall 2019-Winter 2020), Forthcoming
33 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2019
Date Written: 2019
One chief justice’s departure and another’s arrival marks an important transition for any apex court. Richard Wagner was appointed Chief Justice of Canada on December 17, 2017, following Beverley McLachlin’s retirement after seventeen years as leader of the Court. Early on, Chief Justice Wagner distanced himself from the McLachlin tradition of consensus building among judges, openly stating that he would welcome and value dissent and affirming, more recently, that dissent is in the Supreme Court’s “DNA”. In 2018, the Court’s judges responded to that cue with a burst of concurring and dissenting opinions that exposed significant differences of opinion among its members. A trio of judges – Justices Côté, Brown, and Rowe – dominated the minority jurisprudence, holding the majority view to account, at times in blunt and uncompromising terms. Though the rise in minority reasons stands out against the McLachlin legacy, it is early to predict how the Wagner Court will evolve. In his inaugural year, Chief Justice Wagner’s style of leadership clearly influenced the dynamics of decision making, opening the process up to debate and intellectually diverse points of view.
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