Saturday, April 01, 2006

How does the SCC affect our lives?

My fiancee and I were walking around Toronto recently and, by happenstance, we saw Supreme Court Justice Louis Lebel. I immediately recognized him (how can you not what such a distinctive coif?) and this dialogue ensued:

Me: OMG, look at that!
F: What?
Me: It's Justice Lebel!
F: Who?
Me: Justice Lebel of the Supreme Court!
F: Never heard of him.

Honestly, I doubt if most law school students know much about him. The only reason why I recognized him so quickly is that there is an underground Louis Lebel Society at Queen's and they plaster his photo over the public computers in the library. For better or worse, the visibility of our highest court is very low and it's not notable that a non-law student did not recognize a Supreme Court Justice.

The interesting discussion came later on:

Me: I should have gotten Lebel's autograph.
F: Why?
Me: Because he's important.
F: Not really. It's not like he's Daniel Dennett or something.
Me: Oh. Well, he probably hasn't had as much impact on society as Louis Lebel.
F: Really? And how has Lebel, or the Supreme Court for that matter, affected me?

I gave her a few arguments about the division of powers, health care, voting rights, same-sex marriage and right of women to run for elected office (issues off the top of my head) but nothing convinced her. So I put it to you, my readers:

Explain to me how the Supreme Court affects the life of an average Canadian.
(If you want to be specific, this "average Canadian" can be female, brilliant, caring and gorgeous.) I've turned off the comments' verification feature so that it's easy for you to post your reasons. Thanks, in advance.


At 1:20 PM, Anonymous grass said...

Okay - well maybe this isn't fair as I'm a law student, but the one thing that pops into mind right away for young women is abortion rights. Without the S.C.C., abortion might still likely be illegal in this country. The fact that it's not affects women everywhere because it has had huge echo effects on women's reproductivve rights, and their rights in general. Nowadays we won't even sign treaties that have potential implications on reproductive rights (e.g. American Convention on Human Rights) and any woman can go to the pharmacy and get a morning after pill. And I love Lebel - was just reading one of his dissents in family law - he's awesome. And I like his Chaoulli dissent too! Health care - a whole 'nother area where the SCC has the potential to have a profound impact on Canadians.

At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a tough question, because it's rare for the "average Canadian" to run afoul of the law. But there are quite a few people who have been affected directly - think of people like prisoners (who can vote, thanks to the SCC), deaf people (guaranteed sign language translators, thanks to the SCC.

And it predates the SCC, but it was only because of the high courts that women were allowed to become members of the Senate.

At 7:03 PM, Blogger Lawyerlike said...

I know before I came to law school, I only knew of the Supreme Court as a shadowy group of judges that didn't make the news all that much, but always seemed to make sense when they did.

Now in law school, you quickly realize each judge almost has their own cult following, and you also see how much each individual persona influences a decision.

I think to the average person, Supreme Court decisions appear unanimous, and are reached with little debate.

It's nice to know that things aren't taht easy, and judges are a bit more human than people realize.

At 8:09 PM, Blogger a blawger said...

Thanks for your comments. I'll pass them along.

When I got back to Kingston, I mentioned that I had seen Lebel to a friend and he got really excited. "Did you get his autograph?!?!" Hence the second dialogue.

At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Hooray SCC said...

Thanks to the SCC, now we can all attend orgies without fear of police reprisal!

At 10:59 PM, Blogger þΛųL jØŋαŦhΛŋ said...

i rode the subway with Peter Cory once...


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