Silence From the Court

Recently, I had occasion to look at the speeches and presentations made by members of ultimate courts of appeal – the Supreme Court and its equivalents. And Canada ranks somewhat disgracefully last in terms of making the speeches publicly available.

Eugene Meehan has monitored the court too for speeches and presentations, but his pickings are similarly slim in recent years.

Compare this record to Chief Justice French of the High Court whose seventeen speeches from 2010 and eleven to date from 2011 are available here

His predecessor Chief Justice Brennan’s speeches from the Nineties are there prominently available.

The new UK Supreme Court has a decent record, though some falling off between 2010 and this year.

Even Chief Justice Balakrishnan has a better record in New Delhi.

The US Supreme Court seems to publish only speeches by justices nominated under Democratic administrations – Chief Justice Roberts speaks often but you won’t find the speeches archived. I found remarkable a speech by Justice Ginsburg from July commenting on the most recent term.

All I can assume is that the updating of the SCC website has lost priority because of other pressures, or that the controversy from the conservative press’ reaction to the Unwritten Constitutional Principles speech has led the court to permit publication of remarks in other places, but not the court’s own website.

There is an important speech by Justice Ian Binnie entitled, Sondage Après Sondage . . . A few Thoughts about Conflicts of Interest” by Justice Ian Binnie, edited version of remarks at a panel discussion at Les Journées Strasbourgeoises in Strasbourg, France, on July 4, 2008, which illuminates the court’s decision in R. v. Neil but you won’t find it anywhere electronically, only in a conference volume published by Les Editions Yvon Blais.

And speaking of Justice Binnie, the entire transcript of his interview with the Globe and Mail’s Kirk Makin is well worth reading.

Binnie J


  1. So right.