The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., C.C. was the first woman to hold the distinguished position of Chief Justice of Canada. Her vision for Canada reflected her adept interpretation of Canadian constitutional law and her groundbreaking decisions and rulings, which significantly contributed to the evolution of our country.
Former Chief Justice McLachlin graduated as the gold medalist in her class at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law, and practiced in Alberta and British Columbia before joining the law school at UBC in 1974 as a tenured Associate Professor. After teaching at UBC for seven years, former Chief Justice McLachlin began a meteoric rise through the judiciary. In April, 1981, she was appointed to the Vancouver County Court. Over the course of the next seven years, she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, followed by the British Columbia Court of Appeal, was subsequently appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and finally as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. On January 7, 2000, she was appointed Chief Justice of Canada by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. On December 15, 2017, she retired from the bench as Canada’s longest serving Chief Justice.
Following her retirement from 36 years in the Canadian judiciary, on May 1, 2018, former Chief Justice McLachlin released a fictional novel – Full Disclosure: A Novel (Simon & Schuster; 2018), a legal thriller featuring the tales of a young criminal defense attorney. While she may no longer sit on the bench of Canada’s highest court, former Chief Justice McLachlin was appointed to the Hong Kong Final Court of Appeal as a non-permanent common-law judge in March of 2018. Former Chief Justice McLachlin’s appointment to Hong Kong’s highest court as a non-permanent judge was announced alongside that of Baroness Brenda Hale, marking the first time women were appointed to this position. In 2018, former Chief Justice McLachlin was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada for "her prodigious impact on our country’s legal landscape, notably as the longest-serving Chief Justice of Canada, as well as the first woman in the role." This appointment is the highest honour within the Order.
The former Chief Justice has a strong connection to the law school and the university as a former member of the law faculty and as the recipient of an honorary degree (Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, 1990). We are grateful for her contributions as a professor, her service as the Honourary Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Council, and her support of various law school and university initiatives over the years. We are also honoured to administer the Beverley McLachlin Legal Access Awards, which provide support to students who are pursuing articles in underserved or rural communities, or with public interest organizations.
On March 3, 2015, alumni UBC and Wesbrook Village presented the third in the series of Wesbrook Talks, featuring former professor and honorary UBC alumna, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin. Learn how she became interested in law and hear about some of the influences that have shaped her long, successful career. The conversation was moderated by Mary Anne Bobinski, former Dean and Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law:
On September 26, 2016, Chief Justice McLachlin again visited UBC to participate in the Allard Law Oral History Project. She discussed her experiences relating to the development of legal education in Canada, including the changing status of women in the legal profession.
To learn more, read a profile on The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin from the May 2018 edition of The Advocate.