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Chief Justice of Canada to receive honorary degree from Lethbridge College

beverley mclachlin

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin will receive an honourary degree at Lethbridge College’s convocation ceremony. Photo courtesy the Supreme Court of Canada and photographer Roy Grogan.

The Chief Justice of Canada will receive an honourary degree at Lethbridge College’s convocation ceremony this year.
The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., will receive a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in Justice Studies on April 28 at the Enmax Centre as part of the college’s 60th anniversary celebrations.
“I am deeply grateful for the honour Lethbridge College will be bestowing upon me,” Chief Justice McLachlin said. “It is a privilege to join your community and become a part of its history.”
McLachlin, who was born and raised in Pincher Creek, has had a profound influence on the Supreme Court for more than 25 years, since first being appointed in 1989.
Named Canada’s 17th chief justice in 2000, she is the first woman to serve as chief justice of Canada’s highest court, and is now the longest-serving chief justice in Canadian history.
“The chief justice has helped to shape this country with her leadership, her ability to foster co-operation and her firm judgements,” Lethbridge College President and CEO Dr. Paula Burns said. “Her outspoken criticism of Canada’s residential school system, her support of First Nations, Metis and Inuit rights, and her ties to southern Alberta embody what Lethbridge College hopes to represent.”
Growing up in Pincher Creek, McLachlin was a frequent visitor to the town’s library, which helped fuel her passion for learning.
McLachlin maintains close ties to Pincher Creek, including displaying a painting of the area in her Supreme Court office.
McLachlin earned an honours degree in philosophy from the University of Alberta and then simultaneously pursued her master’s in legal philosophy and a law degree, graduating at the top of her law class.
McLachlin practiced law for five years, but her passion for post-secondary education continued as she joined the law faculty of the University of British Columbia as an associate professor.
In April 1981, at age 37, McLachlin was appointed to the Vancouver County Court. A year later, she was elevated to the B.C. Supreme Court and in 1985, she was named to the B.C. Court of Appeal.
In 1988, McLachlin became Chief Justice of British Columbia. In 1989, at the age of 45, McLachlin’s meteoric rise culminated in her appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.
McLachlin’s voting pattern illustrates that she fosters cooperation and brings other justices to a common position, but she is not afraid to write dissenting opinions.
Consensus, above all, and not any particular principle, is what counts for the chief justice.
Chief Justice McLachlin has taken a firm stand for the rights of aboriginal communities in Canada, including authoring the court’s unanimous ruling in June 2014 that legal observers called the most important aboriginal-rights decision in Canadian history.
The court determined that native Canadians still own their ancestral lands, unless they signed away their ownership in treaties with government.
The ruling gives them enormous leverage in negotiations with outside parties that wish to develop their lands.
The chief justice has also described Canada’s treatment of aboriginal people, including the residential school system, an attempt at “cultural genocide.”
McLachlin will be the 17th person to receive an honorary degree from Lethbridge College since the award was first given in 1986.
McLachlin will also be recognized the evening before convocation at the college’s annual Honouring Excellence event. She will be joined by alumni award recipients Miles Grove, J. Scott Barton and Charlton Weasel Head on April 27 in the Garden Court dining room.