THE ADVOCATE 43
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public fora. In short, the chief’s powers are cast in broad, general language
in order to provide the necessary flexibility to allow the office holder to
make the most of the office. Second, the absence of detailed and specific
legislation emphasizes the chief’s (and the court’s) independence from government.
When government–court collaboration is called for, the chief’s
powers permit the chief to reach out and interact with government agents;
equally, where the chief is required take a firm position or, in a sense,
defend or advocate on behalf of the judiciary, the chief has the freedom to
do so. In sum, chiefs are able to determine, in large measure, the scope of
the office, allowing them to meet challenges as they arise.
While their reasons for accepting the post may vary, one theme remains
constant: chief justices accept the post to improve the justice system, to
serve Canadians better, and to foster dignity and respect for the law and for
the justice system in general.90 The chiefs I interviewed spoke of simply
wishing to contribute to the development of the law, to improve access to
justice and to serve British Columbians to the best of their abilities. As society’s
expectations of the justice system shift and evolve over time, so too
will society’s expectations of the chiefs who sit at the apex of that system.
While it is impossible to predict with perfect certainty the ways in which the
role of chiefs will evolve in the coming years, we can be reasonably sure
that chiefs will face new challenges in relation to access to justice, changing
conceptions of the role the judiciary plays in Canadian society and exciting
new opportunities created by emerging technologies. Equally, we can be
sure that in meeting these challenges, chief justices in British Columbia will
continue to lead with the same energy and enthusiasm that they have
1. The leading works on the subject include Peter W
Hogg, “The Role of a Chief Justice in Canada”
(1993) 19 Queen’s LJ 248; Canadian Institute for the
Administration of Justice & the International Centre
for Criminology, Université de Montréal, Compendium
of Information on the Status and Role of
the Chief Justice in Canada (October 1981)
2. In the interest of narrowing the field of inquiry, this
article will not consider the role of chief judges in the
Provincial Court, though it should be noted that this
role differs in a number of important respects from
that of the chief justices of the superior courts.
3. See Ruffo v Conseil de la magistrature, 1995 4 SCR
267 at para 56; Compendium, supra note 1 at 17.
4. See Compendium, supra note 1 at 16–19.
5. See ibid at 33.
6. See David Ricardo Williams, “Sir Matthew Baillie
Begbie”, Canadian Encyclopedia (24 September
2015), online: <www.thecanadianencyclopedia.
also David Ricardo Williams, The Man for a New
Country: Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie (Sidney, BC:
7. See “On the Front Cover: The Honourable Mr Justice
David Campbell, Associate Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court of British Columbia” (1990) 48
8. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, online ed, sub verbo
“chief”, online: <www.merriam-webster.com/dictio
10. 1997 3 SCR 391.
11. Ibid at para 99.
12. Letter from Salmon P Chase to John D Van Buren (25
March 1868) Salmon P Chase Papers (Pennsylvania
Historical Society), cited in Alpheus Thomas Mason,
“The Chief Justice of the United States: Primus Inter
Pares” (1968) 17 J Pub L 20 at 22.
13. RSBC 1996, c 77.