In her new memoir, Truth Be Told, former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin offers an intimate and revealing look at her life – from her childhood in the Alberta foothills to her career on Canada’s highest court, where she helped to shape the social and moral fabric of the country.
McLachlin will launch her book at the University of Toronto Mississauga this evening as the featured speaker at a new annual speaker series hosted by the department of philosophy.
McLachlin was born in rural Alberta and studied law and philosophy before being called to the bar in 1969. She was appointed a judge in 1981 and joined the Supreme Court of Canada in 1989. In 2000, McLachlin became the first woman appointed to the role of Chief Justice, serving until 2017 – the longest-serving Chief Justice in Canadian history.
Throughout her distinguished career, McLachlin helped to shape Canadian law and governance, including legislation on sex work and mandatory minimum prison sentences.
Truth Be Told looks at McLachlin’s life and delves into contemporary legal and social concerns.
“Beverley McLachlin’s judicial career has been intertwined with the successful integration of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms into our legal system,” says Andrew Sepielli, an associate professor of philosophy, who will introduce McLachlin at the event.
“There’s no guarantee that such a document will function as a true check on elite power and popular sentiment, rather than as a way to legitimize the stifling of disfavoured interests. Whether writing for the majority or in dissent, Justice McLachlin has certainly done more than any other person to craft the Charter into a protection of our highest ideals.”
“Philosophy engages in abstract thinking about issues of fundamental importance to human beings, such as ‘What is the nature of our freedom? What rights should we have? What’s the point of our existence?'” says Jennifer Nagel, a professor of philosophy.
“Those are the kinds of questions that really make a difference to people’s lives.”
Nagel notes that the department has recently launched a new minor focused on ethics, law and society. “There’s an incredible value in having people who have thought deeply about these questions serving in influential roles as Justice McLachlin certainly has for Canada,” she says.
“Justice McLachlin has made decisions that have made a huge impact on the shape of contemporary Canadian society. She’s somebody who’s made an enormous difference to the kind of country that Canada is, and the kinds of rights and freedoms that we have – for example, the right of homosexual couples to marry, or the rights that Canadians now have with respect to medical assistance at the time of their death. These are landmark decisions of the McLachlin court that have an impact not just in Canada, but also internationally.”
Nagel added that: “Anyone can be inspired by McLachlin’s story, including the next generation of potential Supreme Court justices that we are teaching now in our undergraduate program.
“Her decisions have had a great impact on Indiginous Peoples, the LGBTQ community and anyone who is concerned with censorship and freedom of speech.”