New Zealand Law Society - Canadian Supreme Court Judge to visit University

Canadian Supreme Court Judge to visit University

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A Canadian Supreme Court Judge is to present a lecture in Wellington about equality rights under the Canadian Constitution.

Justice Sheilah L. Martin is the guest speaker for the annual Robin Cooke Lecture being held at Victoria University's Faculty of Law on 28 November.

Justice Martin was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2017 after being nominated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Her 30-year legal career has focused on indigenous issues, education, equality rights, and increasing the number of historically underrepresented groups in law schools and the legal profession.

Her lecture will focus on equality jurisprudence in Canada and will look at the equality rights guaranteed in the Canadian Constitution, including a review of section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This section of the Charter has played an important role in Canadian equality jurisprudence and has led to the achievement of substantive equality for some groups in Canadian society. However, the tests required to establish a breach of equality rights have been criticised as too restrictive, resulting in mixed experiences and missed opportunities for equality seekers in Canada.

Before Justice Martin's appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada, she served as a Deputy Judge for the Supreme Court of Yukon from 2009 to 2016, when she was appointed to the Courts of Appeal of Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. She has been involved with judicial education throughout her career. On her appointment to the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Trudeau said “She has a breadth of experience, is an extraordinary jurist and has experience right across the country”.

Dean of Law and Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark Hickford says the lecture will give people a fascinating glimpse into the workings of the Canadian judicial system.

“I look forward to hearing Justice Martin’s insights on the advancement of equality in Canada, and to seeing what lessons we can draw for the New Zealand context,” he says.

The Robin Cooke Lecture is given annually in honour of the late Lord Cooke of Thorndon, a Victoria University of Wellington Law alumnus who is widely considered New Zealand’s most eminent jurist. He is the only New Zealand judge to have sat in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom.

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