Chief Justice of Canada

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Chief Justice of Canada
The Chief Justice of Canada
Beverley McLachlin, PC

since 7 January 2000
Supreme Court of Canada
Office of the Chief Justice
Style The Right Honourable
Madam Chief Justice
Nominator Prime Minister of Canada
Appointer Governor General of Canada
Term length No set term, though retirement is mandatory at age 75
Inaugural holder Sir William Buell Richards
Formation 30 September 1875
Succession Assumes viceregal duties upon the death or incapacitation of the Governor-General
Salary $396,700[1]
Website Supreme Court
This article is part of a series on the
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The Chief Justice of Canada is the presiding judge of the of the Supreme Court of Canada. The Chief Justice is appointed by the Governor General-in-Council, who also appoints the other eight puisne judges of the court.[2]


The Chief Justice is appointed by the Governor General-in-Council under the Supreme Court Act.,[2] on the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada.[3] The appointment is subject to the Supreme Court Act, which governs the administration and appointment of judges of the court. Judges appointed to the court must be "a judge of a superior court of a province or a barrister or advocate of at least ten years standing at the bar of a province." Tradition dictates that the Chief Justice is appointed from a judge already appointed to the court.

The Chief Justice is sworn as a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada prior to taking the oath of office as Chief Justice.[4]


The Chief Justice's central duty is to preside at hearings before the Supreme Court.[5] The Chief Justice presides from the centre chair. If the Chief Justice is absent, the senior puisne judge presides.[5]

Judicial Council

The Chief Justice chairs the Canadian Judicial Council, which is composed of all chief justices and associate chief justices of superior courts in Canada. This body, established by the Judges Act, organizes seminars for federally appointed judges, coordinates the discussion of issues of concern to the judiciary, and conducts inquiries, either on public complaint or at the request of the federal Minister of Justice or a provincial attorney general, into the conduct of any federally appointed judge.

Other duties

The Chief Justice also sits on the advisory council of Canada's highest civilian order, the Order of Canada. In practice however, the Chief Justice abstains from voting on a candidate's removal from the order, presumably because this process has so far only applied to individuals convicted in a lower court of a criminal offence, and could create a conflict of interest for the Chief Justice if that individual appealed their conviction to the Supreme Court.

Under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, each province has a three-person commission responsible for modifying that province's federal ridings. The chair of each such commission is appointed by the chief justice of that province; if no appointment is made by the provincial chief justice, the responsibility falls to the Chief Justice of Canada.[6]

Assistant viceroy

The Letters Patent of 1947 respecting the Office of Governor General provide that, should the Governor General die, become incapacitated, or be absent from the country for a period of more than one month, the Chief Justice or, if that office is vacant, the Senior Puisne Justice, of the Supreme Court would become the Administrator of Canada and exercise all the powers and duties of the Governor General. This has happened twice in the past, with Chief Justices Robert Taschereau and Sir Lyman Poore Duff acting as Governor General for brief periods following the death of a sitting Governor General. In 2005, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin was Administrator of Canada when then-Governor General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, was hospitalized when she had a pacemaker installed.

The Chief Justice and the other Justices of the Court serve as deputies of the Governor General for the purpose of giving Royal Assent to bills passed by parliament, signing official documents or receiving credentials of newly appointed high commissioners and ambassadors.

Current Chief Justice

The current Chief Justice is The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, PC, the first woman to hold this position. She was appointed in 2000 and was previously a puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Chief Justice of the British Columbia Supreme Court, and a Justice on the British Columbia Court of Appeal. A graduate of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, she has also practised law with various firms and taught law at the University of British Columbia. She was born in Pincher Creek, Alberta, in 1943.

List of Chief Justices

Name Province Term Appointed on advice of
1 The Honourable Sir William Buell Richards Ontario September 30, 1875 – January 10, 1879[7] Mackenzie
2 The Honourable Sir William Johnstone Ritchie New Brunswick January 11, 1879 – September 25, 1892 Macdonald
3 The Right Honourable Sir Samuel Henry Strong Ontario December 13, 1892 – November 18, 1902 Thompson
4 The Right Honourable Sir Henri Elzéar Taschereau Quebec November 21, 1902 – May 2, 1906 Laurier
5 The Right Honourable Sir Charles Fitzpatrick Quebec June 4, 1906 – October 21, 1918[7] Laurier
6 The Right Honourable Sir Louis Henry Davies Prince Edward Island October 23, 1918 – May 1, 1924 Borden
7 The Right Honourable Francis Alexander Anglin Ontario September 16, 1924 – February 28, 1933 King
8 The Right Honourable Sir Lyman Poore Duff British Columbia March 17, 1933 –January 7, 1944[8] Bennett
9 The Right Honourable Thibaudeau Rinfret Quebec January 8, 1944 – June 22, 1954 King
10 The Honourable Patrick Kerwin Ontario July 1, 1954 – February 2, 1963 St. Laurent
11 The Right Honourable Robert Taschereau Quebec April 22, 1963 – September 1, 1967[8] Pearson
12 The Right Honourable John Robert Cartwright Ontario September 1, 1967 – March 23, 1970 Pearson
13 The Right Honourable Gérald Fauteux Quebec March 23, 1970 – December 23, 1973 P. Trudeau
14 The Right Honourable Bora Laskin Ontario December 27, 1973 – March 26, 1984 P. Trudeau
15 The Right Honourable Brian Dickson Manitoba April 18, 1984 – June 30, 1990 P. Trudeau
16 The Right Honourable Antonio Lamer Quebec July 1, 1990 – January 6, 2000 Mulroney
17 The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin British Columbia January 7, 2000 – present Chrétien


  1. "Considerations Which Apply to an Application for Appointment". Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs. November 22, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Supreme Court Act". Queen's Printer for Canada. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Supreme Court of Canada". Retrieved 2016-01-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "About the Judges". Supreme Court of Canada. Retrieved 6 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Supreme Court of Canada - Role of the Court". Supreme Court of Canada. Retrieved 2016-01-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act". Retrieved 2009-09-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Richards and Fitzpatrick never served as puisne justices, but were appointed directly to the position of Chief Justice. All other Chief Justices served as puisne justices before acceding to Chief Justice, usually (but not always) on the basis of seniority.
  8. 8.0 8.1 In cases where a Governor General dies in office or leaves the position before a replacement can be named, Canadian tradition is that the Chief Justice assumes the viceregal duties until a new Governor General is appointed. Duff and R. Taschereau are the two Chief Justices who have served as Acting Governors General under this convention.