Politics

In historic first, Supreme Court of Canada to hold hearings outside Ottawa

For the first time in its history, the Supreme Court is taking its hearings on the road to give more Canadians a close-up view of the top court at work.

Top court to travel to Winnipeg to hear 2 cases and meet with community groups

Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

For the first time in its history, the Supreme Court is taking its hearings on the road to give more Canadians a close-up view of the top court at work.

The justices will travel to Winnipeg in late September to hear two appeals and hold meetings with various individuals and groups in Manitoba.

"It's important for us to be accessible to all Canadians, because the Supreme Court is your court," said Chief Justice Richard Wagner in a video statement. "The decisions we make affect your life and that of your family and community."

This will be the first time the Supreme Court of Canada hears a case outside of Ottawa, and it follows on similar moves by high courts in the U.K., Australia and France.

Wagner said the Supreme Court already has taken steps to give Canadians a closer look at its operations — by televising and webcasting hearings and by keeping Canadians up to date on its activities through Twitter and Facebook.

Holding hearings in another part of the country will allow more Canadians to see the justices at work, Wagner said.

In Winnipeg on Sept. 25, the Supreme Court will hear a case that deals with court delays in a child sexual abuse trial. The following day, it will hear a case about minority language educational rights stemming from an appeal in British Columbia.

Wagner was sworn in as chief justice Dec. 18, 2017, succeeding Beverley McLachlin.

During a news conference after his appointment, Wagner expressed his belief that the court must engage more with the public in order to maintain confidence in the justice system.

"I think that the Supreme Court and chief justice, in particular, have an obligation to speak to the people and to make sure that the people of Canada keep their faith in the judicial system. And that could be made by our presence, by our speeches," he said at the time.

While in Winnipeg, the court will hold a large public event and meet with various groups, including Indigenous communities, the francophone community, the legal community and students.

Manitoba Court of Appeal Chief Justice Richard Chartier said the local legal community is "delighted" to host the hearings.

"This will be a great opportunity for Manitobans to learn more about our justice system, and for the justices of the Supreme Court to meet Manitobans and learn more about our great province," he said in a statement.

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