Appointment of a Quebec Supreme Court chief justice follows tradition
The appointment of a Quebecer as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada follows a tradition of alternating between a Quebecer and someone from the rest of Canada.
Richard Wagner was named to the post Tuesday, despite some concern among judicial circles that a Quebecer would not be named.
The tradition is to alternate between a civil code jurist from Quebec and a common-law one for another province or territory.
Wagner is a French Quebecer who is also fluently bilingual. Because he is 60 years old, he could serve for 15 years as chief until the court's retirement age of 75.
He has practiced law since the 1980s and has served on the Quebec Superior Court and the Quebec Court of appeal. Appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada by former prime minister Stephen Harper, Wagner prefers to let elected officials craft laws rather than have courts dramatically re-shape laws.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard is pleased with the nomination – many say Wagner was the best pick for the job because he is considered a unifier.
“This is what he's known for. He has this humility that often is associated with excellence and in his case it's pretty clear. We know he was involved in his local bar in Montreal very much and he was what we call a bâtonnier de Montreal so the president of the Montreal bar so he's very well-respected here in Quebec,” said President of the Quebec Bar, Paul-Matthieu Grondin.
Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlan's last day on the job is Dec. 18. Wagner will be sworn in on that day.