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Welcome to the Supreme Court, Louise Arbour

The Story

"When I was 24, I never thought I would ever be 50," jokes Louise Arbour. At 24, she had been an eager young law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada. Now in her early 50s, she's back -- but this time as a judge. Arbour left her high-profile job as a UN war crimes prosecutor to be appointed to Canada's Supreme Court on June 10, 1999. In this radio clip, we hear an excerpt from her speech at an October 1999 ceremony formally welcoming Arbour to her new post.

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Oct. 4, 1999
Guest: Louise Arbour
Resource: Barbara Budd
Duration: 3:32
Photo: CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand

Did You know?

• Louise Arbour was born Feb. 10, 1947, in Montreal. As a teenager, she edited her school newspaper and became known for being outspoken and irreverent.

• After graduating from law school at Université de Montréal in 1970, Arbour became a law clerk for Justice Louis-Philippe Pigeon of Canada's Supreme Court while completing her graduate studies in law at the University of Ottawa.


• In the 1970s and '80s, Arbour held various influential and prestigious posts, including associate dean of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. In 1987, Arbour was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario.


• Arbour gained international fame when she was appointed chief prosecutor of war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in 1996. Here she took on the controversial task of indicting Slobodan Milosevic, who was then president of Serbia, for war crimes.


• Arbour's bold work in the tribunal became the basis for a 2005 made-for-TV film starring Canadian actress Wendy Crewson.


• Her June 10, 1999 appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada took effect on Sept. 15, 1999 but she was formally welcomed in a ceremony the following month (as heard in this clip).


• In 2004, Arbour became United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. After a few controversial moves -- including condemning the war in Iraq, and making comments that some people interpreted as being anti-Israel -- she stepped down from the role at the end of her first term in 2008.


• Arbour said her decision to step down as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had nothing to do with any criticisms: "I am not quitting because of this pressure. On the contrary, I have to resist the temptation to stay to confront it," she explained in a CBCNews.ca article. Instead, the mother of three said she was quitting to spend more time with her family.


• In March 2009, it was announced that Arbour would become the president and CEO of the International Crisis Group as of July 2009. The organization describes itself as an "independent, non-partisan, source of analysis and advice to governments, and intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, European Union and World Bank, on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict."



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