In September, Chief Judge Gillespie gave a speech welcoming the Faculty of Law Class of 2025 at Thompson Rivers University. Her “Ten things to think about” were so well received that eNews persuaded her to let us share them.
“Congratulations and welcome to the next new and exciting academic and personal journey in your life.
In the coming three years, you will spend a great deal of time speaking about the importance of the rule of law and in particular, its vital role in ensuring that all persons are accountable to the law and the law is equally enforced and independently adjudicated. Discussions about justice in Canada and around the world will certainly include the challenging issue of improving access to justice for people who have unmet legal needs.
Access to Justice has emerged as one of the greatest challenges to our legal system. Inevitably, it has become increasingly important to talk about what the legal profession and the courts can do to modernize and improve access, perhaps by using technology as a tool to transform some court processes, but also by considering if there are alternatives to court proceedings for some.
The need to build new ways to reconcile with Indigenous peoples in Canada is also an imperative. Many conversations are now occurring to rethink innovations and changes to the justice system to begin to address reconciliation.
Diversity in the legal profession is also incredibly important. Canada is a culturally, linguistically, ethnically, and religiously diverse country. According to Stats Canada’s 2017 statistics, more than 20 percent of Canadians were foreign born. It is true that until very recently in Canada, our legal profession and judicial appointments did not even begin to represent this degree of diversity.
The legal profession and the judiciary must strive to be representative of the communities they serve. Having highly qualified lawyers and judges who are from diverse backgrounds and/or alive to diversity issues supports a fair, efficient, and innovative system of justice that is representative of all of the people who access it, while building confidence in the communities it serves.
I sat in your place in September 1986, wondering with excitement, and some degree of apprehension, what the future held for me. Nearly 35 years later and a lifetime of working in the law, I have a few observations. But, as with all advice and observations: listen carefully, consider what others tell you, and then take what works for you and chart your own marvelous course.
Look where you are now and think with an open heart and mind what the world ahead holds for you. While you do that, here are somethings to think about:
Congratulations on this, the first day of your legal career. Your journey will be an interesting one. As you look forward, remember that you are the future of this profession. You will undoubtedly bring fresh perspectives and ideas about how we can build a better, stronger, and more flexible justice system that is even more accessible to the diverse needs of the communities it serves.
Best wishes to all of you!”